UK ‘steadfast’ in support of Saudi against Iran-backed terror: Foreign Secretary
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Al Arabiya that the UK stands with its “ally” Saudi Arabia against Iran-back terror attacks on the Kingdom, and reiterated Britain’s commitment to securing a stronger nuclear deal with Iran for the safety of the region.
During his visit to the Kingdom this week, Raab, speaking with Al Arabiya senior anchor Mayssoun Noueihed in a special interview, also spoke of a “steadfast, dependable, constant relationship” between the UK and Saudi Arabia, adding that there are “huge opportunities” for bilateral relations in coming years.
Raab had met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday to set out the UK’s ambition for a closer partnership with Saudi Arabia based on a commitment to trade and regional security, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported earlier.
The foreign secretary then held a sit-down interview with Al Arabiya to discuss how the two countries will work together to both boost international trade deals, as well as stressing that the UK is steadfast in its unwavering support for the security of Saudi territory against threats from the Iran-backed Houthi militia following recent missile attacks on the Kingdom.
Raab also discussed the ongoing talks regarding the now-defunct 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“We're liaising very closely with our Saudi partners on the progress on talks in Vienna in relation to the JCPOA,” he said. “We are very clear that Iran must never be allowed to acquire nuclear capability for military purposes and must return to full compliance with the JCPOA.”
“And indeed, we are looking at the scope to go, as it's termed, longer and stronger in relation to the requirements that are placed on Iran.”
“There is also all of the other destabilizing activity in Yemen, in Iraq as well in Syria.”
Raab said it was critical that the UK works with its allies to “minimize the space for that destabilizing activity and hold Iran to account for its behavior.”
“I think it's important we stand up for our values, but also our interests, and we take a very rigorous approach. And Saudi will find the UK a steadfast ally in that respect, but also capable of using diplomacy to broaden the number of countries that are willing to stand up and be counted on these important issues.”
Raab also addressed attempts by Iran-backed Houthi militias to attack civilians in acts of terror against the Kingdom.
“We deplore the Houthi attacks on civilians, and we call for all sides to respect the ceasefire. Of course, the Houthis need to be pressed, and pressed hard to come to the negotiating table. They need to be held to account for what they are doing.”
At the same time, the door for diplomacy must be left ajar, said Raab.
“Because ultimately that conflict will require a resolution by negotiation if it's going to create a lasting peace.”
Addressing UK-Saudi relations, Raab told Noueihed that he believes that there is plenty of opportunities for business, especially with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“I think you can feel the winds of change through Saudi Arabia with all of the reform agenda that the Crown Prince is pushing through.”
“And so there are huge opportunities, I think. Opportunities for our bilateral relationship between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia to do more trade, to do more business, particularly, I think, in some of the innovative sectors of the future, which will create the well-paid jobs of the future.”
“And there are new threats like misinformation, threats from cyber, which can come from hostile states or criminal gangs. But in all of these areas, I think the steadfast, dependable, constant relationship between Britain and Saudi Arabia will give us a real edge in both grasping the opportunities but also mitigating the threats.”
Raab described Vision 2030 as “bold” and “ambitious,” and said the UK could be a contributor to the Kingdoms’ plans to build up an innovative technological industrial base.
“I think a partner like the UK can contribute to that. We constantly look for a win-win approach with all of our trading partners, but particularly with a long-standing ally like Saudi.”
Raab also touched on future collaborations in the defense sector and discussed shared goals between the UK and Saudi on tackling climate change and investing in renewable technologies
“Saudi, like the UK, got a comparative advantage in renewable technology, particularly solar and wind. And that's the way by pioneering, innovating, strengthening, improving those renewable sources, that we can transition to a sustainable, greener future, but in a way that increases livelihoods, creates the well-paid jobs of the future and stimulates the economy rather than holds them back.”