Saudi Arabia’s crown price is set to visit the UK this autumn, marking his first trip to Britain since the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In an effort to improve ties with the oil-rich Gulf state, the Government has invited Mohammed bin Salman to visit later in the year.
The diplomatic gesture will seek to repair relations after MBS was frozen out by the West following the alleged assassination of Khashoggi on 2 October 2018.
It comes as Britain seeks Saudi support in a putting together a trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a Riyadh-based union of Gulf states.
Downing Street last night declined to comment on whether an invite has been extended, as first reported by the Financial Times, citing a Government official.
‘MBS’ was previously accused of ordering the assassination of the Washington Post and Middle East Eye writer at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, but denied involvement.
He alleges rogue agents were behind the attack.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s view of the journalist’s killing, his official spokesman said: ‘From the start we have been clear that this murder was a terrible crime and that Saudi Arabia must ensure such an atrocity can never happen again.
‘We’ve sanctioned 20 Saudi nationals involved in the murder under the global human rights scheme.’
Khashoggi was a prominent writer and edited the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al Watan, making it a progressive channel for Saudis.
He went into self-imposed exile in 2017 and fled the country, before going on to write articles highly critical of the regime – including the crown prince.
On 2 October 2018, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate to collect marriage documents but was never seen to leave the building.
Reports emerged claiming he had been dismembered inside. The Saudi government initially denied his death, until Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General concluded he had been murdered.
The CIA determined that MBS had ordered the journalist’s assassination, flaring tensions between East and West and inviting calls to sever diplomatic ties.
Labour, at the time, attacked the government for doing too little to put pressure on Saudi Arabia over the presumed murder.
Emily Thornberry, then Shadow Foreign Secretary, said Jeremy Hunt’s plea for ‘urgent answers’ from Riyadh was ‘too little, too late’, writing in the Observer in October 2018.
Later in the month, demonstrators marched on the Saudi Embassy in London to protest attacks on Yemen and the killing of Khashoggi.
In his writing, Khashoggi was critical of Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen.
Britain is aiming to strengthen its ties with the kingdom despite concerns over its human rights record as it seeks to attract investment from the oil-rich Gulf following Brexit.
In November 2022, Rishi Sunak was pictured sat across from MBS at the G20 summit in Nusa Dua, Bali.
In the first of their talks together since Sunak took office, the Prime Minister spoke of his wish to ‘work together’ to the benefit of the two countries.
Five days ago, Saudi Arabia requested inclusion in a joint next-generation fighter jet project signed between the UK, Japan and Italy.
While the UK and Italy are open to the idea, Japan has made its opposition clear.
Source: Daily Mail