The government has been accused of “rolling out the red carpet to dictators” following news that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman is set to visit later this year.
The visit, pencilled in before the end of 2023 according to a report in the Times, comes despite concerns about the Crown Prince’s human rights record.
Responding to news of the visit, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson told the i newspaper: “What is the point in boasting about our energy independence one week if you then go cap-in-hand to the murderous regime in Saudi Arabia the next? Rolling out the red carpet to dictators shows just how weak our Government has become.
“When Boris Johnson went to Saudi Arabia last year he was welcomed with a swathe of public executions – a symbol of how little our government’s posturing over human rights matters to the crown prince. We can expect the same shameful spectacle to play out again.”
The trip, which government sources told i newspaper had yet to be formally confirmed, will be viewed as an attempt by the British Government to build closer links to Saudi Arabia as the West attempts to eliminate the use of Russian oil and gas.
Britain is currently seeking support in the region as it puts together a trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a union of Gulf states.
Mohammed Bin Salman, or MBS, is the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and exercises power on behalf of his father, King Salman, 87.
But MBS had been frozen out by the West following the alleged assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi on 2 October 2018.
Mr Khashoggi was a prominent writer and he went into self-imposed exile in 2017, fleeing the country, before going on to write articles highly critical of the regime — including the crown prince.
US President Joe Biden described the Saudi regime as a “pariah” when he was running for the White House but he has also since made moves to reconcile with MBS.
In November 2022, Rishi Sunak was pictured sat across from MBS at the G20 summit in Nusa Dua, Bali.
In the first of their talks together since Sunak took office, the prime minister then spoke of his wish to “work together” to the benefit of the two countries.