Saudi crown prince greeted in Britain with pomp, protests

Saudi crown prince greeted in Britain with pomp, protests

Prince Mohammed is on a three-day visit to Britain, which began with a lunch with Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday, and will see him hold the second of two meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May later Thursday.

Crown Prince Mohammed had previously referred to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as "the new Hitler of the Middle East".

Welby also "voiced his distress" about the ongoing conflict in Yemen where is fuelled by Saudi-led airstrikes and has been described by the United Nations as "the world's worst humanitarian disaster for 50 years".

Theresa May and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince have used talks in Downing Street to lay plans for a £65 billion trade and investment package. "This vindicates the engagement that we have with Saudi Arabia, to be able to sit down with them", she said. After 2015, there is an increase of nearly 500% in the sale of British weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Amid this public mistrust, advertisements praising Mohammed's reforms have been blanketing London - in an apparent bid to woo Britons. Should America be doing business with the Saudi regime? "In a Saudi context, these changes have huge significance".

"If there is one individual who has been the driving force behind these changes it is "MbS", as he is often known", wrote Adam Hosier, the British-born founder of the firm.

But these were not the only advertisements greeting the crown prince. A Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in Yemen in 2015 and critics say Riyadh has been using British-supplied weapons in devastating strikes.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The meeting agreed a landmark ambition for around £65 billion of mutual trade and investment opportunities over the coming years, including direct investment in the United Kingdom and new Saudi public procurement with United Kingdom companies".

Protesters chanted "Hands off Yemen - stop the bombing now" and said the crown prince should not have been invited.

Save the Children, a London-based charity, also highlighted the plight of children in Yemen by placing outside Parliament a small statue of a child standing in rubble and staring at the sky.

Numerous billboards welcoming the crown prince appeared along the motorways that connect Heathrow Airport to central London - suggesting that Mohammed may have been the intended audience.

A fiery exchange in parliament between May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn underlined tension in Britain over Prince Mohammed's trip, which was aimed at building a broader economic partnership between the two countries, but has sparked anger about alleged human rights abuses and the war in Yemen.

"The link that we have with Saudi Arabia is historic, it is an important one, and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country", May responded, as opposition lawmakers shouted "shame".

"Following the meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council, the prime minister and the crown prince received a briefing from United Kingdom national security officials on foreign policy issues, including Yemen", the spokesperson said. Joint Strategic Partnership Council is also under consideration.

The controversy over Saudi Arabia puts May in a tight spot politically.

His reported comments reflect Saudi Arabia's deep suspicion of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling AK Party has its roots in Islamist politics and who has allied his country with Qatar in its dispute with Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states.

During the meeting the Saudi prince said that promotion and strengthening of interfaith dialogue is a part of his domestic reforms.

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