Regional security tops agenda of talks between Saudi crown prince, Raab
RIYADH - Regional security issues were the focus of talks held Monday between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab.
During the meeting, the Saudi crown prince and the British minister discussed the “outstanding bilateral relations” and ways “to strengthen them, especially in the defence fields,” said the Saudi official news agency SPA.
The Saudi emphasis on defence cooperation hints at strong military ties between London and Riyadh against the background of US decision to halt the sale of “offensive” weapons to Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen.
British cooperation, say analysts, will fill a vacuum created by US non-committal in the Gulf region as its pursues talks with Iran aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.
The SPA added that the meeting “reviewed the efforts made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom to enhance, maintain and protect regional security from any threats and establishing international peace and security. They also reviewed the latest developments in Yemen in light of the Saudi initiative to end the Yemeni crisis.”
Raab’s visit comes as global powers work to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that Saudi Arabia had opposed for not addressing Tehran’s missile programme and aggressive regional policies.
“The UK reaffirms our commitment to tackling our shared security challenges, including Iranian threats and the continued conflict in Yemen,” a foreign office statement quoted Raab as saying, adding that Riyadh was a close friend and long-standing partner.
Saudi Arabia has urged global powers to secure a stronger deal of longer duration at talks in Vienna that aim to bring both the United States and Iran back into full compliance with the pact.
Washington quit the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to gradually violate several of the pact’s nuclear restrictions.
Gulf analysts see London stepping in to firm up ties with Saudi Arabia as Biden administration has been perceived as wavering in its policies towards Riyadh and Gulf security issues, especially in regard to Iran’s nuclear threat and its support to its Houthi proxies in Yemen.
Saud Arabia leads a military coalition that has been battling Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi movement, which has launched missile and drone attacks on the kingdom.
While strengthening security ties to Saudi Arabia, Raab showed the UK’s intent not to steer away too far from the US administration’s focus on human rights in the region.
Raab discussed trade and climate change and raised human rights concerns “notably around justice reform and freedom of media expression”, the foreign office said.