Saudi crown prince’s UK visit draws to close
LONDON: A visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman drew to a close on Friday after a three-day official trip that helped redefine the priorities for both countries. The crown prince’s visit resulted in new agreements with the British government and the signing of a raft of business deals.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s own words captured the mood that surrounded the visit: “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.”
The prime minister was referring to the importance of Saudi Arabia as an ally with a special relationship linking the two kingdoms over the past eight decades.
The crown prince and the delegation of Saudi officials and business leaders held talks with the PM at Downing Street, where May extended a warm welcome to the Kingdom’s heir apparent.
That meeting saw the launch of the UK-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council; a broad understanding was agreed for a £65 billion ($90 billion) mutual trade and investment target, which would include direct investment in Britain and new Saudi public procurement from British companies. This would be spread across sectors including finance, education, health care, renewable energy and defense, May’s office said. Britain is also vying to land the stock market listing of state oil firm Saudi Aramco, but no decision emerged during the visit.
“This is a significant boost for UK prosperity and a clear demonstration of the strong international confidence in our economy as we prepare to leave the European Union,” a spokeswoman from May’s office said after the meeting.
On Wednesday, the first official engagement for the crown prince was a visit to Buckingham Palace to see Queen Elizabeth II — a rare honor usually reserved for heads of state.
After lunch with the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William, second and third in line to the British throne, held a dinner party at Clarence House in honor of the crown prince.
On the second day of the visit, the crown prince established a milestone in demonstrating a tolerant and inclusive Saudi Arabia by visiting the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace in south London. The Archbishop showed the prince a rare copy of an ancient Qur’an manuscript that was discovered a few years ago at Birmingham University. The crown prince extended an official invitation for the archbishop to visit the Kingdom, another step demonstrating an open and tolerant Saudi Arabia.
Defense and security are at the heart of bilateral relations between Britain and Saudi Arabia. The crown prince discussed strategic cooperation with UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, in addition to discussing the latest developments in the Middle East and the war on terror, and the fight against extremism everywhere in the world.
During this meeting, the crown prince and defense secretary signed two memorandums to improve Saudi defense capabilities and to increase cooperation and partnership in the fields such as knowledge transfer, manufacturing partnership, training, research and technical support, as detailed by Vision 2030.
“The crown prince’s visit has opened a new chapter in our two countries’ historic relationship,” Williamson said.
The crown prince’s itinerary in London was largely private, including meetings with bankers, executives and lawmakers, and he did not speak publicly during the trip. However, his first visit was accompanied by a large campaign that included adverts promoting the crown prince and Saudi Arabia in national newspapers, on taxis ndon, and praising the “United Kingdoms.”
Source: Saudi Arabia
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