Protests planned as Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman travels to UK

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Protests outside Downing Street have been planned after the Prime Minister confirmed she will welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Britain.

Human rights campaigners will hold a demonstration next Wednesday as the designated successor to the Saudi throne jets into the UK.

They are calling on Theresa May to tackle the Crown Prince over his country’s human rights record, as well as to suspend UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia amid the kingdom’s military action in Yemen.

Groups such as Stop the War Coalition, which counts shadow home secretary Diane Abbott among their patrons, will join anti-arms trade campaigners in Westminster.

It has been calculated Britain has licensed £4.6bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it began its intervention in neighbouring Yemen, which has seen the deaths of thousands of civilians.

A Saudi-led blockade has also been blamed for pushing Yemen to the brink of famine.

Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “The Crown Prince should never have been invited to Downing Street: he leads a regime with an appalling human rights record and has overseen the destruction of Yemen.

“The UK has armed and supported the terrible war since day one, and there is no doubt that arms sales will be top of the agenda next week.

“Theresa May is putting the interests of arms dealers above the rights of Yemeni people.”

Theresa May visited Saudi Arabia in November

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister was also urged to “show some backbone” over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record during the Crown Prince’s visit.

Amnesty International UK’s Director, Kate Allen, said: “Time and time again, UK ministers have turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record – barely mentioning the country’s crackdown on peaceful opposition figures, or the alarming prevalence of torture, unfair trials and grisly executions.

“Ahead of Mohammed bin Salman’s visit, Theresa May must finally do the right thing over UK arms sales – suspending all arms exports to Saudi Arabia while there’s any risk they’ll be used by the Saudi-led coalition to bomb civilians or enforce the crippling blockade in Yemen.”

Ahead of her trip to Saudi Arabia in November, the Prime Minister revealed she intended to raise the humanitarian situation in Yemen with her hosts.

Next month’s visit will be the Crown Prince’s first to the UK since he took on Saudi Arabia’s second-most senior role in June last year.

Yemen conflict victim

Yemen: World’s worst humanitarian crisis

Speaking about their upcoming talks, Mrs May hailed the UK-Saudi relationship on intelligence-sharing as making “both of our countries safer.”

She said on Wednesday: “Saudi Arabia is changing. We have seen recent decisions to allow women to drive from June this year, a target for women to make up one third of the Saudi workforce by 2030, and a move to develop sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism.

“These are all sectors where the UK leads the world and where there are new opportunities to work together.

“Our strong relationship with Saudi Arabia enables us to talk frankly and constructively about issues where we both have concerns, such as regional security and the conflict and humanitarian situation in Yemen.

“Our vision for Global Britain is that of an outward-looking country strengthening our relationships around the world and standing up for our values, not turning in on ourselves and refusing to engage.”

It has been suggested ministers will also view the Crown Prince’s visit as a chance to press the case for London, as Saudi Arabia deliberates between global stock markets on where to float state oil company Aramco.

Ahead of his visit, the Crown Prince replaced a number of senior generals and, unusually, named a woman to a government position.

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