18. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the UK’s military co-operation with the Government of Saudi Arabia. (900924)
The UK has a long-standing relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is a key strategic partner of ours. I spoke with its Defence Minister, the deputy crown prince, only last week. Our co-operation helps to keep Britain safe from terrorism.
At that meeting, did the Secretary of State highlight the fact that last year 90 people were executed in Saudi Arabia and that figure was reached by the end of May for this year? Sweden has dropped its memorandum of understanding on defence co-operation over the mistreatment of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and other human rights concerns. When will we see some urgency and action from the Secretary of State?
We do raise these cases at most senior levels with the Government of Saudi Arabia and we maintain a regular dialogue with them on a range of human rights issues. We strongly support the right to freedom of religion and belief. But let me be very clear: our relationship with Saudi Arabia is of long standing. It is based on a number of different pillars—trade, economy, education, defence, culture and security—and there is no other middle east country in which we have such a diverse and important set of interests to maintain.