UK takes steps to mend crucial ties

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf

Days after Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf, the Saudi ambassador to Britain, wrote a powerful piece in The Telegraph voicing concern at the way Saudi Arabia was being lectured and treated in Britain, David Cameron’s government has taken several measures to mend the relationship.

This is evident from an editorial, “Now is not the time to upset an important ally,” and a politically significant news report, “David Cameron launches secret diplomatic offensive with Saudi Arabia after row,” in The Telegraph on Friday.

The editorial and news report in the leading British newspaper highlighted the importance of the Saudi-British relationship at a time when there are apparently intelligence reports indicating that terrorists are plotting massive attacks.

“It is unwise to risk Britain’s relationship with one of its most important Gulf partners … Governments must pay heed to wider strategic considerations, and avoid willfully offending the sensibilities of key allies,” wrote The Telegraph.

Prince Mohammed, in his piece, said Saudi Arabia was a sovereign state. “Our Kingdom is led by our rulers alone, and our rulers are led by Islam alone. Our religion is Islam and our constitution is based on the Holy Qur’an. Our justice system is based on Shariah and implemented by our independent judiciary. Just as we respect the local traditions, customs, laws and religion of Britain, we expect Britain to grant us this same respect,” wrote Prince Mohammed on Oct. 25.

The Telegraph noted Cameron’s personal assurances to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman that the relationship between the two countries remains robust. The prime minister is expected to follow it up with a visit to Saudi Arabia at the end of the year.

Cameron’s reported intervention follows this week’s visit to Riyadh by British Foreign Secretary Phil Hammond, who sought to repair relations between the two countries.

The change in discourse in the media was immediately welcomed by well-known Saudi political analyst Nawaf Obaid. “There is finally a realization here in Britain that the campaign against Saudi Arabia was taken too far,” he told Arab News from London. “Forces that are inimical to the interests of Saudi Arabia, Islam and Arabism are behind this vicious campaign,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia is the center of Islam, it is the center of power in the Arab world, and those who cannot digest these facts are resorting to these vicious attacks,” he said. “Nothing can undermine the status of Saudi Arabia, and this is pretty evident from the course correction that we have seen in the last two to three days in Britain.”

Obaid came down heavily on what he described as spurious reports by news agencies quoting unnamed Western diplomats in Riyadh. “This is absolutely bad journalism and will have drastic repercussions,” he said. “First of all, foreign diplomats are completely oblivious to the internal workings in the Kingdom and secondly, they know very well not to discuss domestic issues with the press in a country they are serving in, least of all Saudi Arabia, especially if they peddle wild and unsubstantiated claims and baseless rumors.”


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