The Saudi ambassador to the UK has warned of an “alarming change” in Britain's attitude towards Saudi Arabia following what he described as “breaches in mutual respect.”
In an op-ed published in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, titled “How Saudi Arabia helps Britain keep the peace,” Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz said Saudi Arabia would “not be lectured to by anyone.”
He referred to the leader of Britain’s Labor Party Jeremy Corbyn and the recent British government announcement that a multimillion-pound prisons deal with Saudi Arabia was being withdrawn.
The contract was to provide a “training needs analysis” for Saudi prison service staff, according to the BBC.
“One recent example of this mutual respect being breached was when Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Opposition, claimed that he had convinced Prime Minister David Cameron to cancel a prison consultancy contract with Saudi Arabia worth £5.9 million. This coincided with speculation linking the contract’s cancellation to a number of domestic events in the Kingdom.”
At the time, Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokeswoman said the move had reflected the government's decision to focus on domestic priorities. But Corbyn had recently said the government had been “shamed” into a “U-turn on this terrible contract.”
Prince Mohammed warned that “if the extensive trade links between the two countries are going to be subordinate to certain political ideologies, then this vital commercial exchange is going to be at risk.”
He added: “We want this relationship to continue but we will not be lectured to by anyone. Hasty decisions prompted by short-term gains often do more harm than good in the longer term.”
He also said his country had “always had to deal with a lack of understanding and misconceptions”, but just as his people respected “the local traditions, customs, laws and religion of Britain, we expect Britain to grant us this same respect.”
Hajj stampede and Syria refugee crisis
Prince Mohammed responded to “intense criticism” over Saudi Arabia’s treatment of the refugee crisis as well as allegations related to the deadly Hajj stampede in September.
“There have also been other unfounded allegations made against the Kingdom. It has been claimed that it was the convoy of the Saudi deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman that caused the recent tragic Mina stampede that killed hundreds of Hajj pilgrims. This is untrue.
“There has also been intense criticism of the Kingdom’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Yet this is unfair, as it fails to acknowledge that Saudi Arabia has taken in over 2.5 million displaced Syrians.”
The prince added that the intelligence provided by Saudi authorities had helped Britain combat terrorism.
“To further our shared strategic interests in the years ahead as we confront a variety of threats, it is crucial that Saudi Arabia be treated with the respect it has unwaveringly afforded the United Kingdom.”