Boris Johnson was in Riyadh to discuss a bypass for a looming energy crisis following Ukraine war. Russia is a main energy supplier of Europe.
The British Prime Minister had a meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince in Saudi Arabian capital on Wednesday. The visit occurred during a Persian Gulf tour for negotiations with the central purpose of reducing dependency on Russian energy.
Saudi energy minister was also present at yesterday’s talks in Riyadh, according to the Saudi official news outlet. Riyadh and London agreed on a letter of intent to form a strategic cooperation committee, according to SPA.
Boris Johnson is among the rare Western leaders to travel to Riyadh following the Washington Post journalist scandal. Members from the Saudi royal family ordered the murdering and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate back in 2018.
Boris Johnson was in Abu Dhabi earlier yesterday and met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of UAE. The two sides “discussed opportunities to increase collaboration on energy security, defense and trade” British premier posted in a tweet.
The British prime minister is working to bring down oil prices, which surged to over $140 before plummeting under $100. Due to the consequences of Ukraine war, Johnson also intends to assist in ending the West’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.
Johnson took to twitter explicating the visit as “I’m visiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are key partners in ensuring regional security and stabilizing global energy markets after Russia’s unprecedented, brutal and illegal invasion.”
Johnson’s visit comes at a time when Saudi Arabia’s international reputation is once again under severe criticism. Late last week, Riyadh implemented death penalty for 81 people. Human rights organizations challenged whether the group has had access to attorneys and a just judicial process.
Boris Johnson amid human Rights Concerns
British leader vowed to address human rights concerns with the Saudi de-facto ruler before departing for Riyadh. He, nevertheless, emphasized the UK’s extremely essential relationship with the kingdom in the same remarks. “It’s not just a question of looking at OPEC countries and what they can do to increase supply, though that is important,” Johnson told the British press.
According to Johnson’s spokesperson, the British PM will also ask Bin Salman to criticize Putin’s attack on Ukraine. Both Saudi kingdom and the United Arab Emirates have relations to Russia and have thus refrained from taking a stand against the war.
Before departing, Johnson stated that the Russian aggressive and provocative attack will prove obvious consequences well beyond Europe. “The world must wean itself off Russian hydrocarbons and starve Putin’s addiction to oil and gas,” Johnson asserted in a statement.
The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are the London’s two main economic allies in the Middle East. According to Johnson administration, bilateral commerce with the two countries surpassed over £12.2 billion and £10.4 billion in 2020.
Russia is the greatest gas supplier and one of the world’s top oil producers. By the end of 2022, London aims to cut out Russian oil supplies, as did Washington in recent days. It’s part of a broader set of penalties aimed against Russian companies and oligarchs.
Bin Salman and US President have had no direct talks since Biden assumed office. Biden has promised to handle Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” state in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder for which, local investigations found Saudi royal family responsible.
Contrasting with the recent visit by Boris Johnson, activists and campaigners lambast UK for indirect assistance in crackdowns by Riyadh. No surprise, London puts national interests beyond human rights priorities.