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British PM Theresa May embarks on visit to Saudi Arabia, Jordan

The British PM will meet Saudi and Jordanian leaders during the three-day trip [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 November, 2017

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Prime Minister Theresa May will meet Saudi and Jordanian leaders during a three-day visit to the Middle East in a bid to bolster regional ties.


The British leader will hold talks on issues including Qatar and Yemen with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, before heading to Jordan for meetings with King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Hani Mulki.

"This visit demonstrates that as the UK leaves the EU we are determined to forge a bold, confident future for ourselves in the world, a spokesman for May said.

"It is clearly in the UK's security interests to support Jordan and Saudi Arabia in tackling regional challenges to create a more stable region, and in delivering their ambitious reform programmes to ensure their own stability," he added.

May, embattled domestically after losing her parliamentary majority in a snap election over the summer and facing division over Brexit, visited both countries in April.

In Saudi Arabia, she is expected to reiterate her support for the kingdom's fledgling social reform programme, which saw an end to the infamous ban on women driving last September.

Britain's largest trading partner in the Middle East, London has signed off on more than £3.3 billion (€3.7 billion, $4.4 billion) worth of arms sales to Riyadh since March 2015.

During that time Saudi Arabia has embarked on a bombing campaign in Yemen that has been condemned for contributing to a humanitarian disaster.

In September, a War Child report found that since the Saudi-led coalition began its intervention in Yemen in 2015, British weapons companies including BAE systems and Raytheon have earned revenues of more than $8bn from dealings with Saudi Arabia, generating profits estimated at almost $775m.

Humanitarian aid to Yemen eclipses the tax income generated from the weapons sold that are fuelling the crisis, the report also found, with weapons sales to Saudi Arabia resulting in approximately $13m in corporation tax in 2016, yet during 2017, the UK will spend $188m in humanitarian aid to Yemen.

The UN estimates that seven million Yemenis are on the verge of starvation and more than 10,000 have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015.

In July, the UK High Court ruled that the UK had not contravened international humanitarian law by sanctioning the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia - a ruling that the claimants, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, have pledged to appeal.

The UK frequently justifies its close relationship with Saudi Arabia by highlighting how it delivers essential counter terrorism intelligence.

May is expected to discuss the crisis during her meetings. 

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