3 Bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia |
27. In its submission to this inquiry, the Government
referred to the "long history of friendship and co-operation"
between the UK and Saudi Arabia. The relationship stretches back
just over a hundred years, to the period before the Kingdom was
unified under the Al Saud monarchy. Between 1902, when Abdul Aziz
al Saud returned from exile to capture Riyadh, and 1932 when the
Kingdom was finally unified under the Al Saud monarchy, the UK
had broadly positive relations with the Al Saud, signing its first
agreement with Abdul Aziz Al Saud in 1911 and shifting its support
conclusively behind him in the 1920s. Following a series of conquests
that eventually united the tribes and territory under a single
banner of the Al Saud and Wahhabi Islam, the UK signed the 1927
Treaty of Jeddah, recognising the territory (and protecting the
boundaries of the UK's interests elsewhere in the region).
28. On the discovery of oil in the 1930s and
40s, Saudi Arabia granted a US company the rights to exploration,
while the UK had exclusive rights in its protectorate states on
Saudi Arabia's borders. The UK has on the whole maintained a broad
alliance with Saudi Arabia ever since, based on shared strategic
interests, especially in defence and trade, and a shared commitment
to security and stability in the Middle East, although one witness
noted that the relationship had nonetheless been subject to some
There was an interval that many may not recall of
12 years of no diplomatic relations at all, between 1953 and 1965
over the Bahraini episode in the Empty Quarter, the boundary dispute
and the initial search for oil and so on, where Britain undertook
to support its protected regimes in the form of Abu Dhabi and
Oman and aroused the intense irritation of the Al Saud.
The relationship also suffered under a 1973 oil embargo
imposed by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members of on the UK and
Western States following their support for Israel in the October
War 1973. The 1980s
saw warmer relations, and a major defence agreement (more details
in paragraph 64), Several witnesses to the inquiry emphasised
the benefit of historical connections for the UK's current diplomatic
relationship. Sir Alan Munro told the Committee that as ambassador
in the 1980s, he had had "extremely close and, indeed, rewarding
contact" with King Fahd and other senior members of the government
and of the royal family. He had:
a conviction that our relationship with Saudi Arabia
remains and has long been of the first order. [
] it remains
for this country a relationship of the first order in diplomatic,
political, economic and cultural terms, and at the public level.
Saudi Arabia has since provided vital support in
recent times of crisis, as an important ally in the first Gulf
War against Iraq in 1990-1 and the subsequent no-fly zones, during
which it hosted British Tornadoes, and by providing support and
bases for allies in the second Gulf War.
UK-Saudi diplomatic relationship
29. The current UK-Saudi relationship is based
on these historical ties as well as a continued sense of common
interests in defence, security, and trade. These shared interests
continue to be important in the 21st century, with
ongoing co-operation with Saudi Arabia on some of the UK's greatest
security concerns, including Al Qaeda, Iran and, most recently,
Syria. The Government told us of Saudi Arabia's importance across
a wide range of areas, including as: a regional influence, a global
religious influence, a key counter-terrorism partner, a key player
in global energy markets, a major market for British goods and
services and a country visited by tens of thousands of Britons
every year. In 2011
the Foreign Secretary affirmed the Government's commitment to
building on the UK's historical relationship and continuing to
develop its relationship with Saudi Arabia:
Britain's links with the Kingdom are deep and long-standing
and extend from inter-governmental relations to the rich network
of links between our people. It is vital that we continue to develop
our relations across the board.
Sir Tom Phillips, UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia between
2010 and 2012, endorsed this policy, describing how the UK had
"extensive interests at stake" in Saudi Arabia, which
is a "long standing ally and key partner in a complex and
30. Saudi Arabia is nonetheless a far from straightforward
ally. Its political development since 1930 has not kept pace with
its startling economic development, and remains one of the least
democratic states in the world with a notoriously poor human rights
record. This presents problems for the UK Government in its desire
to pursue closer ties with this important ally, as the UK has
also made human rights and supporting reform in other states increasingly
central to its foreign policy.
As the largest Gulf State, with the biggest GDP and enormous social
and economic influence on the region, Saudi Arabia presents perhaps
the biggest challenge to the FCO's efforts to both secure the
UK's interests and pursue its values.
PURSUING A 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP'
WITH SAUDI ARABIA
31. The Government has committed itself to strengthening
the UK-Saudi relationship, within the overarching framework of
the Gulf Initiative. As part of this, in July 2011 the Government
announced its intention to upgrade its annual Two Kingdoms Dialogue
with Saudi Arabia to a "full Strategic Partnership"
before the end of that year. The Foreign Secretary said that the
establishment of a 'Strategic Partnership' between the UK and
will enable greater engagement between our two Kingdoms
and formally put our relationship on a par with that between Britain
and other major global partners. At a moment of unprecedented
change, this is more important than ever.
The Government does not publish a list of countries
with which it has a 'strategic partnership' and there is no fixed
template for the form a UK bilateral 'strategic partnership' might
take. It is, therefore, arguably something of a re-branding exercise
in the same vein as the Gulf Initiative referred to in paragraph
14. However, Sir Tom Phillips, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 2011,
explained that the UK had proposed the new partnership because
"we wanted to send a signal of the importance that we attached
to that huge spread of UK interests that was at stake".
Under the Gulf Initiative, the Government has since 2010 established
formal dialogues with other states in the Gulf, including the
UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.
32. Since 2011, and despite two visits to Saudi
Arabia by the Prime Minister in 2012, the UK has neither signed
an agreement for a new 'Strategic Partnership' with Saudi Arabia
or held another meeting of the Two Kingdoms Dialogue. When he
appeared before this inquiry, then Minister with responsibility
for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, confirmed
that the Two Kingdoms dialogue had not been rekindled, for "all
sorts of reasons", noting that the first two years of UK-Saudi
relations under the current government had been "slightly
difficult because of illnesses and ill health in Saudi Arabia".
He told us that the proposal was still on the table and that the
UK Government would like to pursue the idea of a strategic dialogue
to help to give "a bit of extra structure", however,
he emphasised that its lapse "has not got in the way of relationships
or anything else up to now."
33. Our witnesses endorsed the Government's account.
Sir Tom Phillips told us that the UK has "a very intensive
dialogue with the Saudis already at ministerial and lower level.
In some ways, [securing a structured dialogue] is recognising
the reality of what goes on anyway."
Sir David Wootton, former Mayor of London, agreed that the lapse
of the dialogue was for "reasons not applicable to the British
side" and said:
Lots of business and visits have been going on meanwhile,
but the time will, at some stage, be right for a revivification
of the formal structure. It is work in progress, but meanwhile
a lot of good things are going on.
34. The UK-Saudi relationship
continues to be important for the UK. We have no reason to suspect
that the failure so far to establish a formal 'Strategic Partnership'
indicates that the friendship between the UK and Saudi Arabia
has suffered. It appears that practical reasons have prevented
progress. However, we agree with the Government's original position
that structured relations can provide a useful forum to enhance
co-operation on common interests and to raise issues of concern,
and the lapse of regular annual talks is therefore regrettable.
The FCO should include the reinstatement of talks via a strategic
partnership, or the reinstatement of the Two Kingdoms Dialogue,
as a goal in its business plan and should continue to represent
the benefits of such structured talks to the authorities in Saudi
People to people contacts and
35. While relations between the UK and Saudi
Arabia have traditionally been conducted at the level of ruling
elites, including the Royal Families, links are increasingly being
forged between the broader societies as well. There are sizeable
expatriate communities in each country: 34,000 Saudis were resident
in the UK and 20,000 British nationals were resident in Saudi
Arabia in 2012. Saudi Arabia is not a tourist destination for
Britons, but over 70,000 British Muslims visit on pilgrimage to
Mecca and Medina each year, and British Muslims make up the largest
contingent from a Western state to the annual Hajj. The UK, particularly
London, is considered a tourist destination, and over 100,000
visits were made from Saudi Arabia last year, making the UK the
European country most visited by Saudis in most years.
36. Overall, our witnesses were of the opinion
that the UK was generally viewed quite positively by the Saudi
leadership, and Sir Alan Munro described "a mixture of [...]
ignorance and attraction"
among the wider Saudi population. However, research conducted
by the British Council presents a more negative picture of popular
opinion about the UK. A 2012 poll done by the British Council
and Ipsos Mori surveyed 520 online Saudi respondents aged 16 -
34 that had completed at least secondary education, and asked
them to self-assess their level of trust in people from the UK.
It found that the net level of trust
was -10%. The same poll later distinguishes between trust in people
from the UK (-10%) and trust in the British Government (-34%).
This is a small poll but its conclusions seemed to be somewhat
supported by the limited public polling available from commercial
sources, such as the Arab Youth Survey 2013, run by ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller,
a public relations consultancy. This poll surveyed young people
from 16 Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, and found a favourable
rating for the UK of only 32%, lower than that of France (44%)
and Germany (39%), and just above the US (30%).
The Arab Youth survey cautiously attributes this to a decline
in favourability toward 'traditional regional powers' such as
the UK and US.
37. British public opinion of Saudi Arabia appears
to be similarly poor: when a 2012 Chatham House survey asked 2,000
members of the general public in the UK to pick countries about
which they felt especially favourable from a list of 19, just
2% picked Saudi Arabia. When the same group was asked to identify
states toward which they felt especially unfavourable, 16% picked
Saudi Arabia. Further
polling by US-based Pew Research as part of its 'Global Attitudes
Project' revealed similarly negative views of Saudi Arabia in
Britain with regard to their perception of the Saudi government's
respect for human rights. When British participants were asked
if they thought that the government of Saudi Arabia respects the
personal freedoms of its people, 69% said no, and only 12% said
38. The Middle East Association told us that
Saudi Arabia's reputation in the UK was one of its biggest obstacles
to increasing trade.
Negative opinions about Saudi Arabia might in part may be due
to a lack of information about Saudi Arabia provided to the general
public in the UK. A 2012 BBC World Trust review of reportage of
the 'Arab Spring' by the BBC national TV and radio, online content,
and BBC World News found that there had been inconsistencies in
the BBC's coverage across different states in the Middle East
and North Africa, and singled out the BBC's "thin" coverage
of Saudi Arabia for criticism:
Given the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia, its
role as the key ally of the West in the region and its active
role in both the Yemeni and Bahraini uprisings, it is notable
that so little attention was paid to it [during 2011]. 
The report notes that the problems in reporting on
Saudi Arabia were not new, and stemmed from the Saudi government's
reluctance to allow journalists access to the country:
[...] the Saudi regime itself shares Western interest
in its own stability, but it does not see that objective as being
served by detailed Western knowledge of its own society and internal
workings, and especially not knowledge by the Western media and
39. Evidence of negative perceptions
of the UK among young Saudis is deeply concerning, particularly
in a state in which over 60% of the population is under 30 years
old. It is difficult with so little evidence to draw conclusions
as to the reason for the low level of trust in the UK, but we
recommend that the Government set out in response to this report
any research it has conducted on the public perception of the
UK in Saudi Arabia, and its views on the reasons for the poor
public perception of the UK.
ENGAGING WITH THE SAUDI PUBLIC
40. The Government did not make reference to
public diplomacy work in Saudi Arabia in its submission to this
inquiry. However, some effort has been made to reach out to the
Saudi public through old and new media. In recent years, the British
Ambassador has written a column in a major Saudi newspaper every
two weeks. Sir Tom Phillips told us that this column enabled ambassadors
to provide a sense of British views and values to the readership.
In addition, in line with FCO guidance, the Embassy in Saudi
Arabia also has a webpage, Facebook page and Twitter feed in English
and Arabic. In an example of its outreach work, the Embassy has
launched a photo competition open to the general public "to
search for the best image which demonstrates the friendship between
UK and Saudi Arabia".
The World Service and BBC Arabic language service
41. The BBC Arabic language service is part of
the BBC World Service and delivers a news service in Arabic for
and about the Middle East. Our Committee has commented previously
on the importance of BBC Arabic, particularly following the events
of 2011 in the Middle East.
At the end of 2011, the BBC World Service reported record high
viewing figures for its Arabic Service across the Middle East.
In Saudi Arabia, BBC Arabic TV saw its weekly audience more than
double from 12.2% to 24.6% in 2011.
In its 2012/13 Annual Review, the BBC World Service reported that
it had surpassed its targets by achieving an overall BBC multimedia
reach in Arabic of 32.5 million. However, when it surveyed Saudis
regarding the BBC World Service's performance in comparison to
its competitors, it found that "Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera
outperform on many measures but the BBC is still seen as the most
The British Council
42. The British Council also contributes to people-to-people
trust and understanding, promoting Britain through education,
art, and social initiatives. With offices and teaching centres
in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al-Khobar, it boasts a strong presence in
Saudi Arabia and told us that it was "recognised as a trusted
partner by both governments and by civil society".
It provides English language teaching and training to 15,000 students,
as well as working with the Saudi Ministry of Education, universities
and private schools. The British Council claimed to be dominant
in this area, telling us that "the scale of our work in English
is unrivalled by US and other European cultural relations analogues
in Saudi." The
British Council also emphasised the arts as a means of connecting
the Saudi and British societies, highlighting the success of their
Out of Britain touring exhibition of contemporary British
art and the British Museum's Hajj exhibition.
43. A 2012 British Council poll provides support
for the British Council's claims to improve trust in people from
the UK. The below chart illustrates that Saudi nationals who have
been involved in "cultural relations activities" with
the British Council have positive levels of 'net trust' in people
from the UK, unlike those who have had no contact with the UK,
who have overall negative net levels of trust:
44. We recommend that the Government
make public engagement with the wider Saudi population a priority
for its digital diplomacy team in the Gulf and Embassy in Saudi
Arabia. The Government should also set out in response to this
report its public engagement strategy, including the steps it
is taking to engage with Saudi youth on social media, how it is
representing the UK to the younger generation in Saudi Arabia,
and what staff and resources it is dedicating to this task.
45. The work of the British
Council is particularly useful in Saudi Arabia as it is one of
the only channels of direct contact between the UK and Saudi public.
As a provider of valued language training services, it is able
to co-operate with and support the Saudi authorities at the same
time as engaging directly with the Saudi public and promoting
a positive image of the UK.
and commercial relations
46. Saudi Arabia has the world's 20th largest
economy and the largest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
region. Its strength is based almost entirely upon its petroleum
exports, which are the biggest in the world and stand at around
nine million barrels per day. It also has almost one-fifth of
the world's proven oil reserves and fifth largest natural gas
reserves, though natural gas production remains limited. Dr Neil
Partrick noted the importance to the UK of Saudi Arabia's role
as a reliable oil producer, and particularly its ability to stabilise
global oil markets through its spare capacity of around two million
barrels of oil per day.
This means that Saudi Arabia is able quickly to respond to any
shocks in the global market, such as the halting of Libyan oil
fields during the intervention in 2011. The wealth Saudi Arabia
gains from petroleum exports has provided it with substantial
sovereign wealth fund and foreign exchange reserves, as well as
the ability to fund large-scale domestic programmes and to provide
what Sir Alan Munro called a "mega welfare state".
It has also proven relatively reliable over the last decade,
with a high oil price of over $100 per barrel and GDP growth in
Saudi averaging over 5% over the last five years, which is comparable
to growth of one of the BRICS countries.
47. Saudi Arabia's rulers nevertheless face considerable
economic challenges in the coming years. These include a demographic
phenomenon which has seen the Kingdom's population double since
the 1980s, resulting in an annual 4.5% increase in the labour
force; high unemployment; and pressure on housing, public services
and utilities. In
addition Dr Neil Partrick questioned the sustainability of Saudi
spending in the longer-term, which he considered had always been
high but was raised further in response to the Arab Spring (Saudi
Arabia's 2013 budget is 58% higher than its pre-Arab Spring 2010
budget.). He cited
one report by a Saudi investment bank that considered that a "phenomenally
high" oil price of $350 per barrel would be necessary by
2030 if current levels of spending were maintained. 
Saudi Arabia's growing population and generous domestic energy
subsidies have also resulted in an exponential growth in its own
energy consumption. The Economist warned in July 2013 that
"even rich Arab countries cannot squander their resources
indefinitely", adding, "local consumption already eats
up a quarter of Saudi oil output, and on current trends could
devour all of it within 25 years."
48. The Saudi government has recognised the challenge
and begun to take steps to diversify its economy, encourage the
development of the private sector, and attract foreign direct
investment. It has also launched an ambitious spending programme
for infrastructure development and modernisation, as well as far-reaching
health, social and educational programmes. As part of this, the
state has guaranteed a stimulus package of $400 billion for capital
projects, such as the development of seven new cities, a £120
billion programme of investment in schools and hospitals and a
£30 billion Railways Development Programme.
Unsurprisingly, our trade witnesses were enthusiastic about the
prospects for bilateral trade and investment and Saudi Arabia
was described as a source of immense opportunity. Sir David Wootton
told us that "the sheer scale of economic activity, particularly
in Saudi Arabia, is huge, and there is much more we could do."
David Lloyd, Senior Consultant at the Middle East Association,
agreed, and said
It has by far the largest population of all the GCC
states. That population has to be served with roads, schools,
universities, power - you name it. As such, it is by far the most
important and largest economy in the Middle East.
The oil and gas sector, infrastructure, mining and
housing development, were all raised as holding opportunities
for UK businesses.
UK-SAUDI TRADE AND COMMERCIAL RELATIONS
Source: UNCTAD. Figures in $millions
49. Saudi Arabia's current economic advantages
are one of the Government's major reasons for its push to improve
bilateral relations. Saudi Arabia is already the UK's largest
market in the Middle East, comprising 20% of our exports in goods
and services to the region in 2011, and it is our 18th
largest market globally, with £7.5 billion in exports of
goods and services in 2012, and overall bilateral trade worth
an estimated £15 billion per year.
The Government estimates that over 6,000 British companies are
actively exporting to Saudi Arabia.
The UK is also the second largest cumulative investor in Saudi
Arabia after the US, according to UKTI, and there are approximately
200 UK/Saudi joint ventures with total investment of more than
Thousands of British expatriates work in Saudi Arabia and British
companies involved in the country include Shell, GlaxoSmithKline,
BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Marks & Spencer. With enormous
oil wealth, Saudi Arabia is also a source of investment into the
UK. It has an estimated £62 billion invested in the UK economy.
Trade promotion by the Government
50. The Government has identified Saudi Arabia
as a 'High Growth Market' in the Gulf and is committed to working
with the Saudi government and British and Saudi businesses to
build a greater understanding of the Saudi market and its opportunities.
The FCO highlighted opportunities for UK-Saudi partnerships in
the health and education sectors, both of which will be the focus
of significant Saudi spending over the coming few years. The UK
and Saudi governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
between the UK's Department of Health and its Saudi counterpart
in 2011, whereby the UK will support the Saudis' ambitious $100
billion investment into health programmes, drawing on NHS and
private sector expertise.
See Appendix 1 for a full list of extant Memorandums and treaties
signed between the UK and Saudi Arabia.
51. The Government has made trade delegations
a priority: the Prime Minister led trade delegations to Saudi
Arabia in 2011 and 2012, securing defence sales contracts (see
below). The Lord Mayor of London takes a trade delegation from
the City of London every year, while the Mayor of London, Boris
Johnson, led a trade delegation in April 2013. Sir David Wootton
told us that the UK's trade delegations received a "very
warm" reception in Saudi Arabia and that the Gulf States
value a visit by the Prime Minister very highly. He added that
it was important to maintain a regularity of visits and contact
at all levels - building personal relationships at the "technical
level" as well as at the "decision-making level"
in order to ensure success.
52. However, unlike for other states in the Gulf,
the FCO did not set a specific target for increasing the UK's
trade with Saudi Arabia in its 2011-15 Business Plan. The FCO's
Jon Davies explained that this was because the Saudi market was
more mature and [...] already extremely healthy for
the UK. Looking to guarantee a doubling of that market over the
period would therefore have been more challenging. If we can,
we will, but that is why we are not committing ourselves as formally
However, the Middle East Association (MEA) has pointed
out that the UK's export market share is well below that of the
US, Japan, Korea and our leading EU competitors.
Sir David Wootton attributed this in part to the failure of UK
business to respond:
The UK government effort is very good. I think the
people in post are working very hard and are very well connected,
and, as I say, are throwing up more opportunities than we are
taking up at the moment.
53. The scale of the investment projects proposed
by Saudi Arabia does not always count in the UK's favour when
it tries to secure contracts. While in Saudi Arabia, we were told
that UK businesses held their own in securing second and third
tier contracts as subcontractors for the main organization running
a project, but they rarely secured the overall contractor positions
because the UK lacks "big hitters" at the top of the
infrastructure sector and is not good at forming consortiums.
This is not a new problem: Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, a
former envoy to the Gulf and current Chairman of the Arab British
Chamber of Commerce told an 'Opportunity Arabia' business conference
in 2011 that "we Brits really do have to do better in putting
together consortia to meet Saudi needs. We have to put together
business packages and proposals, which must crucially involve
the transfer of knowledge and skills to Saudi business partners."
Other states do not seem to suffer from this problem: consortiums
of construction groups from the US, Spain and Italy were each
awarded multi-billion dollar contracts in July 2013 to build a
metro system in Riyadh.
54. The Government has taken some steps to support
UK involvement in large-scale projects: in June 2013, the UK's
export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), announced that
it will guarantee $700 million (£450 million) of finance
to British companies bidding for contracts on a new $19 billion
(£12 billion) petrochemical facility in Saudi Arabia. This
is backed by the UK Government, and is the biggest project financing
facility in the UKEF's history. Three British companies working
in engineering, procurement and construction - Jacobs, Fluor and
Foster Wheeler - have already secured contracts which will benefit
from financing under the facility.
55. However, significant barriers to trade on
the Saudi side risk impeding further growth in British exports
to the state. This is true, for example, in agriculture exports.
The UK is in theory allowed to export lamb and mutton to Saudi
Arabia but requirements currently imposed by the Saudi authorities
are seen as onerous and not conducive to the establishment of
an export market.
56. The growing Saudi market
and the Saudi government's spending plans offer huge opportunities
for British businesses across a wide range of sectors. Given the
large-scale opportunities available, we see no reason why the
UK should not set ambitious targets for growth in UK-Saudi trade
57. We recommend that the Government
facilitate a leading role for British businesses in international
consortiums to bid for projects in Saudi Arabia. In its response
to this report, the Government should set out what resources it
is dedicating to this task.
The work of UKTI
58. UKTI has created a 'high value opportunities
team', specifically to identify projects in Saudi Arabia. The
UK has a British Trade Office in Al Khobar, in the oil rich Eastern
Province, in addition to the consulate in Jeddah and Embassy in
Riyadh. David Lloyd told us that, across the Gulf, UKTI services
were variable, but he praised highly the work of the Al Khobar
Trade Office post in eastern Saudi Arabia that he considered "outstanding",
and which had organized a Saudi-British energy week in 2012 which
provided "first class" organization and connections.
However, he was critical of the charges the UKTI levied on business
people, including the fees that the Overseas Market Introduction
Service (OMIS) asked in order to host an official embassy reception,
which were over £2,000 and for receptions of variable quality.
He told us that in consequence:
We are now starting to have to bypass UKTI services
at the embassy, because missioners cannot afford to pay that price.
That seems to me to be a major deterrent. Why are we charging
59. We recommend that the Government
assess whether it would be beneficial to lower the costs of its
introduction services to British businesses for a temporary period
in order to boost the UK's participation in the Saudi market,
particularly for small and medium sized enterprises.
BARRIERS TO TRADE: VISAS
60. The requirements for visas cause resentment
on both sides of the UK-Saudi bilateral relationship. On our visit
to the Gulf, we heard repeated complaints about the problems in
obtaining a British visa. Mr Burt acknowledged that visas were
"one of the hottest topics"
on his visits to the region and told us that the Government was
still considering the UK's border security assessment, including
visa arrangements across the Gulf:
We believe that the visa service we operate right
across the Gulf is very good. In each of the states, regular visitors
to the United Kingdom know exactly what it is that they need to
do. They are able to get multiple or long-term visas and they
know what they need to get them. [...] My honest assessment is
that even though this is raised a lot by all the states in the
Gulf, it does not desperately get in the way of people's visits
here, and we are extremely conscious of any risk that that should
be the case.
Despite the complaints, it appears that the UK is
more generous to Saudi nationals than Saudi Arabia is toward UK
nationals. David Lloyd, representing the Middle East Association,
pointed out that while the UK offers 5 year multiple-entry visas
to Saudi nationals and a 24 hour turnaround process; this is not
reciprocated for British travellers going to Saudi Arabia.
Mr Lloyd complained about the difficulties that British business
people have in obtaining a Saudi entry visa, describing the visa
process as arbitrary, unpredictable and very off-putting for businesses
who are seeking to establish a firm foothold in the Saudi market,
and "the biggest deterrent to doing business in the Kingdom".
61. The UK gains considerable benefits from its
visa provision for Saudi nationals. For example, there are now
20,000 Saudi students attending British universities and institutions,
which the British Council estimates is worth around £700
million per annum to the UK.
Mr Lloyd said that the UK Government had made several representations
for reciprocal visa arrangements and the Saudi Ministry of Foreign
Affairs had taken steps to address this problem, but its recommendations
had not been implemented at the Saudi embassy level. He contrasted
the UK's experience with that of the US, which had imposed security
checks on Saudi travelers after 9/11. These inconvenienced Saudi
travellers, leading Saudi Arabia to push for a reciprocal visa
agreement, and a 'trusted traveler programme' was consequently
signed between the US and Saudi Arabia in January 2013. Aside
from the US, however, he believed that visas were a common problem
for western business travelers to the Kingdom.
62. The current visa regime
is a significant source of difficulty and inconvenience for both
Saudi and British businessmen and undermines the UK Government's
stated priority of increasing trade with Saudi Arabia. The improvement
of the visa terms would be of benefit to both states and we are
disappointed that the UK has not managed to secure reciprocal
terms for its business visas. We recommend that the Government
make improving the visa regime a priority in its discussions with
the Saudi government when seeking to establish a strategic partnership.
DEFENCE SALES TO SAUDI ARABIA
63. Sales of defence and security equipment by
UK companies remain a significant, and controversial, portion
of the UK's overall trade with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is one
of the British defence industry's largest markets. It is hard
to obtain exact figures as to the volume of defence trade as the
Government restricts the supply of some information; however,
the UK has granted export licences for almost £4 billion
worth of defence equipment over the last five years.
Reports on the UK's strategic export controls produced by the
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills show that the UK
issued Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs) for over £117
million worth of military and other defence exports in 2012. This
was in addition to defence exports that were classified under
Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs), for which the Government
does not provide figures of the value of exports as these are
open-ended. The defence items licenced under these provisions
reflect a broad range of equipment, for example: body armour;
communication equipment; crowd control ammunition; hand grenades;
cryptographic software; machine guns; and military combat vehicles.
The UK is one of the three largest suppliers to Saudi Arabia,
alongside the US and France.
Sources: European Council Annual report according
to article 8(2) of Council Common Position 2008/944/cfsp defining
common rules governing control of exports
Source: Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values
(TIVs) expressed in US$ m. at constant (1990) prices.
64. The British Government supports major defence
sales to Saudi Arabia directly through providing government-to-government
contracts, in which the Ministry of Defence signs agreements with
the Saudi Arabian Government, then places contracts with UK prime
contractors (such as BAE Systems) to fulfil the UK's obligations.
The Ministry of Defence oversees several of the main contracts
through two main bodies: the Ministry of Defence Saudi Armed Forces
Project (MODSAP) and Saudi Arabia National Guard Communications
Project (SANGCOM). These monitor the progress and performance
of the contracts and provide training and assistance. The project's
operating expenditure is covered by a management fee received
from the Saudi Arabian Government, but details of the fee are
Several of our witnesses endorsed the Government's efforts to
support the industry: Howard Wheeldon, for instance, said that
the defence deals and follow-up had been "very well handled
and very well supported."
|MAJOR UK-SAUDI DEFENCE SALES AGREEMENTS SINCE 1985
Al Yamamah agreements (I and II) initiated in 1985 between the UK and Saudi governments for the supply of a complete package of military equipment, especially Tornado and Hawk jets, by BAE Systems, it was worth over £43 billion by 2004. Following allegations of corruption and a Serious Fraud Office investigation, Al Yamamah was officially closed in 2006.
The Saudi-British Defence Cooperation Programme (SBDCP) is a new and separate defence cooperation agreement between the UK and Saudi governments to provide support for the equipment already in service with the Saudi armed forces, including upgrading and servicing some Tornado aircraft. The programme is funded by the Saudi Defence Budget and began operation in 2007. It is overseen by MODSAP.
The Salem ('Peace') Project initiated in 2007. A deal between the UK and Saudi governments for 72 Eurofighter Typhoons to be provided by BAE, which involves RAF and Royal Saudi Air Force air crews and ground technicians training alongside each other in the UK. It is also overseen by MODSAP. 24 planes were delivered in 2009, but there have been continued delays and price 'issues' relating to the remaining Typhoons. Though the initial contract was for £4.4 billion, it is estimated to ultimately be worth c. £20 billion.
In May 2012 BAE won a contract with Saudi Arabia to provide 22 new Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft, 55 Pilatus PC-21 aircraft and other aircrew training equipment. The deal is worth $2.5billion and reportedly will preserve 250 jobs at the BAE Systems factory in Brough in Yorkshire, with the planes being built in Samlesbury and Warton.
65. In addition to the government-to-government
contracts, the UK dedicates significant resources across the Government
departments to promoting the defence trade in the Gulf, as a key
part of the Governments broader support for exports and "prosperity
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has designated
Saudi Arabia as a priority market for UK arms exports, and UKTI
has a Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) which aims
to help UK defence and security companies to build and maintain
relationships with overseas customers and to export their products.
The UK also holds promotional events and hosted a defence and
security international exhibition in September 2013 that is thought
to have been the largest of its type in Europe this year.
The Prime Minister has personally championed the UK's defence
sales in Saudi Arabia. His November 2012 visit to the Gulf was
seen as being aimed principally at promoting the sale of Eurofighter
Typhoon jets to the UAE and Saudi militaries. These sales would
reportedly be worth up to £6 billion, with further purchases
expected to be made by Oman.
As such, the Government emphasised to us that these defence sales
"represent a significant success story for UK industry, sustaining
many thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of export orders."
66. Our witnesses agreed that Saudi Arabia was
an extremely important market for the UK, the loss of which would
be very difficult for the defence industry. Howard Wheeldon suggested
that a cancelled order for the Typhoon would be "devastating"
for the UK's industrial regions, while Dr Eyal told us that without
Saudi buyers for Typhoons, the unit price would be affected and
it would "change the entire dynamic of the project."
However, witnesses mostly believed that the UK defence industry
could survive without Saudi Arabia, if necessary.
Criticism of defence sales
67. British defence sales to Saudi Arabia are
controversial, and we received several submissions that disagreed
with the UK government's approach to supporting the British defence
industry's sales to Saudi Arabia. Criticism of the sales centred
around three main areas: human rights, corruption and the misuse
68. Human rights: Several submissions
to this inquiry highlighted a perceived contradiction between
the Government designating Saudi Arabia as a 'Country of concern'
in its annual Human Rights and Democracy report, while simultaneously
marking it as a priority market for arms exports. The Campaign
Against Arms Trade argued that:
Selling arms to Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian
regimes has undermined the credibility of the UK's advocacy of
democracy and work to end corruption. It has compromised the UK's
justice system, and left UK taxpayers vulnerable to loss if there
were a default.
Witnesses highlighted fears about the equipment being
used both in internal repression (for instance, in Saudi Arabia's
Eastern Province), and in external action, such as the GCC intervention
in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's alleged bombing of Yemen in 2009.
69. The Government has strongly refuted these
concerns, arguing that there is no evidence that equipment supplied
by the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia has been used in breach
of the EU's arms controls criteria.
On a recent visit to the region, the Prime Minister told the BBC
he would make "absolutely no apologies" for talking
to the UAE and Saudi Arabia about "defence partnerships",
adding that: "Their security is important for our security
and this is vital for British jobs".
He further stated:
We have one of the strictest regimes anywhere in
the world for sales of defence equipment but we do believe that
countries have a right to self-defence and we do believe that
Britain has important defence industries that employ over 300,000
people so that sort of business is completely legitimate and right.
70. The Committees on Arms Export Controls recorded
417 extant export licences for Saudi Arabia in May 2013.
The UK Government stated that it had re-examined all of its licences
to Saudi Arabia at the time of the Arab Spring and was satisfied
that all licences granted to Saudi Arabia remained consistent
with the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.
On being questioned by the Committees on Arms Export Controls
about the possibility of arms being used for internal repression
in Saudi Arabia or other states, the Government repeated that:
export licences for Saudi Arabia are kept under constant
review and every licence is scrutinised in light of changing facts
on the ground.
The Government is satisfied that none of the extant
licences for Saudi Arabia contravene its stated policy.
Several of our witnesses endorsed the Government's position. Sir
Tom Phillips said Saudi Arabia was "a long standing friend
and ally in a volatile region with legitimate defence requirements."
Howard Wheeldon agreed, and further considered Saudi Arabia to
be a responsible buyer of defence equipment:
We have been selling defence equipment to Saudi Arabia
for a long and enduring period. They have behaved, in my view,
extremely responsibly through that time and through the whole
relationship in how they have used the power that we have provided
71. Corruption: In 2006 a major Serious
Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into alleged bribes paid as part
of the Al Yamamah deal was controversially halted after it was
advised that Saudi Arabia might withdraw intelligence cooperation.
In 2012 the Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into
GPT, the subsidiary of EADS, the pan-European defence contractor
that supplied the Saudi Arabian National Guard Communication project
(SANGCOM) equipment, in the light of further bribery allegations.
The Government has thus far declined to give further information
about the case.
72. The closure of the SFO's Al Yamamah inquiry
led to increased international and domestic pressure to update
the UK's bribery laws, contributing to the Bribery Act 2010, which
clarified what could and could not be done by British companies
when conducting business both at home and abroad. This legislation
put the UK on a par with the strongest anti-corruption measures
in the world, including those of the US. Howard Wheeldon and Dr
Eyal both considered that the UK's regulations were as tough,
if not more tough, than our competitors', though Howard Wheeldon
noted that "It is a pity, of course, that the rest of the
world does not necessarily play with us on a level playing field."
As the UK has imposed new limitations, Saudi Arabia is also beginning
to improve: Jane Kinninmont, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham
House, told us that the Saudis had begun to address corruption
from their side, stating that: "King Abdullah has taken steps
to make the procurement more transparent from his end, because
he has clearly been very aware that corruption eats away at legitimacy."
This trend toward greater transparency has seen institutional
changes, as financial accounting responsibility for the defence
contracts have moved from Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Defence to
its Ministry of Finance, and the 'oil for arms' arrangements no
longer exist. According to Transparency International's Corruption
Perceptions Index for 2012, Saudi Arabia is a middle-ranking country
in terms of public sector corruption.
Scoring 4.4 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the least corrupt,
Saudi Arabia is seen as less corrupt than Italy and than many
of its neighbours in North Africa and the Middle East (although
its neighbouring Gulf States are all rated higher, with the UAE
and Qatar doing significantly better). The UK scores 7.4.
73. That the sales are used as leverage:
Dr Rosemary Hollis suggested that the Gulf rulers, including the
Al Sauds, have "worked out that Britain needs them as much
as they need us, if not more so."
She suggested that when Gulf rulers are upset about something
(such as the above-mentioned SFO investigation) "The message
comes out, 'We don't actually have to buy your Typhoons. We can
always buy from somebody else."
However, Dr Eyal of RUSI was not convinced by suggestions of 'arm
twisting' by Saudi Arabia when it came to the most recent contract,
It is very easy to jump to the conclusion that what
we are being subjected to is sort ofhow should we put this
politely?a political blowback or that there is a suggestion
that somehow if we do not behave in a particular manner, Riyadh
would draw the consequences. I am sorry to disappoint some people,
but I have not seen evidence of that. I have not seen direct evidence
of that. I think they cherish the relationship and want it to
74. Nevertheless, Dr Eyal did admit that the
UK defence industry was under pressure in the Gulf, but he believed
that this pressure was coming from competitors. Dr Eyal pointed
out that competition was coming from traditional rivals such as
the US and France: the latter had made four visits at presidential
level with defence "at the top of the agenda" in 2012,
and also from newer, "second-tier" competitors such
as Serbia and South Korea:
we are under pressure in this industry, which is
still important for the UK. It is one of the main contributors
to engineering skills in the UK, and we are under pressure. Please
look at the figures in terms of world league tables for exports.
Some people may find it refreshing that we are under pressure
on this score, but we are.
Dr Eyal also warned that with other players in the
market, the UK should not overestimate its own influence and leverage:
"There are many other players in the region that do not necessarily
displace us but certainly put us in a diminished position as far
as our leverage in defence relationships is concerned." 
He considered such pressure to be problematic, as Saudi Arabia
and other Gulf states turned to these alternative providers "in
part due to apprehension [
] about how steadfast are its
Defence and security cooperation
75. Defence cooperation is central to the Government's
view of the UK-Saudi relationship, with defence activities seen
to "underpin" the entire bilateral relationship. The
Government told us that decades of partnership between UK armed
forces, British companies, and Saudi Arabia had "strengthened
and deepened" the UK-Saudi bilateral relationship.
The UK maintains the following teams in Saudi Arabia:
- A small British Military
Mission (BMM) of seconded British Army personnel that trains
and advises the Special Security Brigade of the Saudi Arabian
National Guard providing advice on such issues as officer training
and developing basic military skills, and in more specialised
areas such as anti-terrorism.
- A separate, specialised team assisting in the
procurement and commissioning of a new communications system for
the National Guard (SANGCOM). This team is made up of one
MoD civilian based in the UK and around 20 UK military personnel
and 50 MoD civil servants in Saudi Arabia.
- A larger team of UK civil servants and MoD personnel
working for the Ministry of Defence Saudi Armed Forces Project
(MODSAP). This team of around 80 staff based in Saudi Arabia
(along with a further 112 staff in the UK) oversees the major
defence cooperation agreements (see above).
- A small Royal Navy liaison team (5 Royal
Navy personnel) provides support to the King Fahd Naval Academy
The UK has approximately 20 naval personnel, 40 army
personnel and 70 air force personnel stationed in Saudi Arabia
overall. For comparison, the UK has similar (slightly more) numbers
of each service stationed in the Netherlands working as NATO staff,
personnel exchange and on bilateral engagement (30, 40 and 90,
respectively). The UK has the same numbers of naval and army personnel
and just less than half the number of air force personnel as Saudi
Arabia stationed in Oman.
There is limited information available about the number of MoD
civil servants in each country, which makes it more difficult
to compare these figures.
MODSAP's operating expenditure, including staff salaries, is covered
in full by a management fee received from the Saudi Arabian Government,
but details of the fee are confidential.
Other Gulf States also cover the operating expenditure of
resident British missions.
Dr Andrew Murrison told us that staff salaries are paid by the
UK, and that the costs are reimbursed at a government-to-government
level. In addition,
Saudi Arabia sends some of its army and naval officers to train
in the military academies and colleges in the UK, and UK ships
make regular Saudi visits and occasionally participate in joint
exercises. In his evidence to us, Sir Tom Phillips, former British
Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told us that the training provided
by the UK, for instance, to the National Guard was "based
on the rule of law and the rules of international conflict, etc.[which]
again, allows us to put across a values element in that sort of
Controversy over the intervention in Bahrain
76. In May 2011, it emerged that Saudi Arabian
troops who were sent into Bahrain in March 2011 to assist its
government in ending a popular protest might have benefited from
British military training, and it was alleged that the troops
had used British-made armoured vehicles.
The Gulf Cooperation Council's 'Peninsula Shield' force was used
to secure key installations in Bahrain and did not take any frontline
roles. However, in the crackdown that followed the GCC intervention,
over 35 people were killed and many more were injured, prompting
international condemnation of the Bahraini authorities and an
independent commission of inquiry (BICI).
77. Dr Murrison, Parliamentary Under Secretary
of State at the Ministry of Defence, confirmed that the Saudi
forces that took part in the intervention did include members
who had been in receipt of British training, but he reassured
us that "none of that was used in a repressive way."
Dr Murrison added that the BICI had exonerated the GCC force from
any involvement in the mistreatment that occurred.
Mr Burt agreed that the Saudi forces were not at fault, telling
There is no logical connection between what the Saudi
authorities were asked to do by the Government of Bahrain and
the GCC, namely to come in and provide protection and do what
they didthere is no connection between any of those vehicles
and any human rights abuses. It would have been entirely open
to the Bahraini security forces to do their job properly.
Mr Burt thought it was "unfair" to search
for a British connection to the abuses.
78. Saudi Arabia is an important
buyer for the UK defence industry, and defence sales are important
to the overall UK-Saudi relationship. The UK provides valued training
alongside its defence sales that is beneficial to both UK and
Saudi forces. With other competitors in the market, there is little
to suggest that ending the UK's defence sales would have any effect
on overall defence sales to Saudi Arabia, or that it would give
the UK additional leverage to effect positive improvements. The
government must adhere strictly to its existing policy to ensure
that defence equipment sold by UK firms are not used for human
rights abuses or internal repression. In its response to this
report the Government should provide further evidence that it
is doing so in practice, including any evidence gathered by end-use
79. Counter-terrorism, and particularly the threat
from Islamist terrorism, is a key part of the UK's relationship
with Saudi Arabia, and a long-standing and primary security concern
for the UK. In a speech at RUSI in February 2013, the Foreign
Secretary confirmed its continuing importance, stating that "Twelve
years after 9/11 the greatest source of the terrorist threat to
the United Kingdom remains Al Qaeda and its ideology."
However, the role played by Saudi Arabia as a counter-terrorism
partner is a mixed and contradictory one. The Saudi authorities
have proven to be engaged and innovative in their co-operation
with the UK and others on counter-terrorism issues. However, there
are fears that the Saudi authorities do not pay enough attention
to the dangerous effects of the funding and religious teaching
that are exported by Saudi citizens to extremist groups across
the region and the wider world.
80. One the one hand, the FCO considers Saudi
Arabia to be the UK's "key operational partner" on counter-terrorism
in the region, as well as a "strategic partner in our global
efforts". The FCO also noted that Saudi Arabia had faced
its own very serious terrorist threat, and it stated that the
"strong cooperation on counter-terrorism [...] is essential
to the interests of both countries."
Saudi Arabia is especially important to efforts to counter the
threat from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is
based in Yemen and is widely thought to be the most dangerous
of the Al Qaeda 'franchises'. AQAP has proved capable of mounting
significant terrorist attacks in the region and has tried several
times in the past three years to carry out bomb attacks in the
West using complex explosives that are difficult for airline scanners
to detect. Saudi
authorities have demonstrated their value as counter-terrorism
partners by co-operating with the UK and the United States in
trying to control and counter AQAP, for example: by allowing the
US to locate a secret drone base on Saudi territory, whence the
US could pursue senior AQAP figures in Yemen;
and sharing critical intelligence on threats to Western
targets. The FCO highlighted an example of important Saudi-British
counter-terrorism cooperation and intelligence-sharing:
British-Saudi collaboration has resulted in the foiling
of AQAP terrorist attacks, which would have caused substantial
destruction and loss of life, including the provision of information
to protect British interests. An example of this cooperation was
the discovery at East Midlands airport of a 'printer bomb' onboard
a US bound flight in October 2010. The initial alert came from
the Saudi authorities, who have been quick to provide information
to protect British interests on many other occasions.
81. Our witnesses agreed on the important role
played by Saudi Arabia, with a number of witnesses pointing to
the UK's halting in 2006 of the Serious Fraud Office's investigation
into Al Yamamah as a sign of the importance of co-operation, although
one witness expressed doubt as to how much credence the UK should
give threats that cooperation would be halted:
There might be room for a bit of scepticism about
whether counter-terrorism co- operation would really have suffered
so badly, given that that seems to be something that is clearly
in the national interest of both sides, and not a favour that
the Gulf does to us.
RUSI Director Dr Jonathan Eyal agreed that co-operation
was of mutual benefit and was unlikely to be fully withdrawn,
however he suggested that problems in the relationship could mean
that "there would be damage to the quality and the timeliness
of information provided to us."
Dr Eyal was supportive of counter-terrorism co-operation between
the UK and Saudi Arabia, describing the counter-terrorism work
by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior as "innovative"
and the UK's engagement with Saudi Arabia on counter-terrorism
as important and productive.
Rosemary Hollis pointed out that the cooperation was three-way
with the United States, and that the UK would "not want to
be excluded from something that the Saudis would remain in with
This accords with our visit to Saudi Arabia, where we met Ministry
of Interior officials and received the impression that counter
terrorism was an important and highly valued part of the UK-Saudi
82. However, alongside this central role as a
counter-terrorism partner, Saudi Arabia also appears to be responsible
for some elements that directly contribute to the growth of extremism
and terrorism worldwide. As part of our ongoing inquiry into The
UK's response to extremism and instability in North and West Africa,
we have heard from some sources about concerns regarding the Saudi
funding and encouragement of conservative Islamic Wahhabi madrassas,
mosques, and social and political organisations across North Africa
which encourage radical and extreme forms of Islam. Some of the
people we have met during that inquiry have considered such madrassas
and groups as directly contributing to troubling extremist trends
in the region. As one argued: people travel from madrassa to mosque
to extremist groups. The funding from Saudi Arabia is attributed
to private Saudi individuals (rather than the government) who
donate to charitable causes but may not always be aware of the
details of what they are funding.
83. The dangers associated with this phenomenon
appear to be a major concern of the US government. Our witnesses
pointed to a 2008 memorandum published by Wikileaks in 2010, in
which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Saudi private
and charitable donors still "constitute the most significant
source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide" and
that it remained "a critical financial support base for Al
Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups". The
cable adds that the Saudi authorities had promised to set up a
charities committee to address the issue but had not yet delivered,
and adds that "While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes
seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has
been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat
terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic
Dr Eyal agreed that this was a problem, and told us that that
there was "absolutely no doubt that a lot of the funding
that came for various terrorist organisations came from various
Saudi sources." However, he did not believe that this was
government-sanctioned money, and said that the Saudis had realised
that it was "a cancer to themselves". In this respect,
he considered that Saudi Arabia was both "part of the problem
and part of the solution", but he emphasised the importance
of assuring the Saudi leadership that the UK supports the authorities
and wanted to engage as a friend.
84. When asked about the consequences of Saudi
support for radical religious groups, Mr Burt told the House in
September 2013 that while he had discussed counter-terrorism efforts
with his Saudi counterparts, he had not recently discussed the
specific issue of Saudi Arabia's policies to discourage the growth
of Jihadi Wahhabism, saying:
There are many reasons why individuals develop extremist
views, and our understanding is continuing to evolve. Many countries
have problems with domestic extremism and terrorism, and with
their citizens travelling overseas to join jihadist groups.
Saudi Arabia has developed sophisticated and integrated
prevention, rehabilitation and after-care counter-terrorism programmes.
Saudi security forces continue to take action against terrorist
groups and disrupt their plans and infrastructure, including through
the prevention of travel overseas by extremists.
85. Saudi Arabia continues to
be a vital but complicated counter-terrorism partner for the UK
and wider international community. Counter-terrorism co-operation
has proven to be of great and practical benefit to both sides
and has been instrumental in protecting British lives and interests.
However, Saudi Arabia is part of the problem as well as part of
the solution. We recommend that the Government make it a priority
to engage with its counter-terrorism partners in Saudi Arabia
to improve the monitoring of the funding flowing from Saudi Arabia
to organisations with an extremist message so that it can be more
effectively disrupted. The Government should also encourage Saudi
Arabia to ensure that its legitimate promotion of religious values
does not inadvertently contribute to the furtherance of extremism,
especially with regard to states in North Africa that have been
particularly vulnerable to the influence of extremist groups,
as well as in states in other regions such as Pakistan, Bangladesh
86. The UK is also criticised by human rights
organisations and campaigners for its intelligence and counter-terrorism
co-operation with Saudi Arabia, as Saudi authorities are alleged
to detain thousands of suspects without charge, hold detainees
for prolonged periods of solitary confinement, and have unfair
In addition, NGOs have expressed concerns that government critics
are labelled as 'terrorists' and prosecuted under this law. Amnesty
International told us "torture and other ill-treatment remain
rife, and are used extensively to extract forced "confessions",
which are all too readily accepted by the courts."
The FCO's own report on Human Rights and Democracy 2012 noted
that "Allegations of torture continue to be heard, in particular
from political activists accused of terrorism offences".
In the light of these allegations, when asked about intelligence
sharing, the Government affirmed that it was "very clear
about what information cannot be accepted. The Prime Minister
has been absolutely clear that the United Kingdom cannot use any
information that may have been produced by torture or anything
The FCO has acknowledged concerns about Saudi Arabia's counter-terrorism
programme, and told us that the FCO staff in Riyadh have "registered
our concerns about arbitrary detentions
and have been permitted
to attend a counter-terrorism trial in the future."
In July 2013, the Government confirmed that Embassy staff had
not yet attended such a trial, in part because permission to attend
trials is in the hands of each trial judge.
However, the Government argued that its counter-terrorism co-operation
could serve to improve the human rights situation:
Our counter-terrorism partnership in recent years
has also allowed us to promote our values and help improve human
rights in Saudi Arabia. For example, giving the Saudi authorities
greater forensic expertise will give them greater capability for
evidence-based prosecutions, which will be admissible in court.
] we continue to believe that the UK's ability to influence
reform and best practice will be most effective if we are cooperating
87. Given that the Saudi government
does not acknowledge that torture is ever used by its officials,
we would welcome further information on the safeguards the UK
government has put in place to ensure that intelligence shared
by Saudi Arabia does not result from torture. Counter-terrorism
is an area in which Saudi authorities appear to be willing to
be innovative and to co-operate with international partners. The
UK should build on this co-operation to support improvements in
standards and best practice. The British Embassy in Riyadh should
pursue the chance offered by Saudi authorities to attend a counter-terrorism
trial and the Government should update the Committee in its response
to this report.
Arabia as a foreign policy partner
88. Saudi Arabia has a huge presence in a region
that is very important to the UK's foreign policy interests. It
is one of largest and wealthiest state in the region, with significant
defence capability as well as religious leadership as the home
of Islam's Two Holy Mosques. As such, it has enormous potential
as a foreign policy partner to the UK. For its part, the Government
considers Saudi Arabia to be a "key strategic partner"
in the Middle East and the Arab world and common foreign policy
interests were repeatedly raised by the Government as something
on which Saudi Arabia and the UK work together, such as the containment
of Iran; resolution of the Syrian crisis; stabilizing Yemen; supporting
Arab states in transition (Egypt, Libya and Tunisia); counter-proliferation;
and the Middle East Peace Process.
89. However, some of our witnesses cautioned
that Saudi Arabia has not always lived up to its potential as
a positive influence in the region. Dr Neil Partrick was sceptical
about Saudi Arabia's foreign policy capability, calling it a "greatly
overstated player" whose diplomats did not engage in "actively
politicking". He argued that Saudi Arabia had not been able
to deliver on the Middle East Process, and would not "substantively
engage" with Iraq either. He concluded:
Part of this is about judgment but it is also about
capacity. They do not have a significant policy-making capacity,
so even under a younger leadership there are still problems about
willingness to advance policy and follow it up. [
] We share
a lot of broad aspirations - they are more conservative, certainly,
on the Iran side - but it is very hard to look to Saudi Arabia
as an active partner in dealing with some of those questions.
Other witnesses disagreed with this analysis. Sir
Tom Phillips told us that Saudi Arabia had some very capable people,
including an extremely experienced Foreign Minister (Prince Saud
bin Faisal has been in office since 1975). He acknowledged that
it was harder to engage at the lower levels as the "real
competence was at the top" and senior Saudi figures conducted
work via mobile phones rather than through institutions. However,
he told us that Saudi Arabia has pursued a noticeably more active
foreign policy in recent years, pointing to its active role with
regard to Syria, Bahrain and Yemen as indicating an increasingly
prominent role in regional foreign policy. In a recent speech
to British Parliamentarians, Prince Turki al Faisal, a former
head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency and former Ambassador
to the UK and US, highlighted strengthening allies, maintaining
stability, and conflict resolution as three overall goals of Saudi
foreign policy over the next decade.
90. In this context, we note Saudi Arabia's rejection
on 18 October 2013 of a non-permanent seat on the United Nations
Security Council (UNSC). This marked the first time that Saudi
Arabia had applied to be elected as a member, and it was due to
take up a seat in January 2014 for a two year term. The announcement
by Saudi Arabia that it was to renounce the UNSC seat was swift
and apparently unexpected; The Economist said that the
decision followed months of diligent preparation for taking up
the place, including the training of several Saudi diplomats in
order to be ready to support Saudi Arabia's membership.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry provided a statement that criticised
the Security Council for failing to bring peace to the Middle
East, particularly with regard to Palestine and Syria:
Saudi Arabia [...] is refraining from taking membership
of the U.N. Security Council until it has reformed so it can effectively
and practically perform its duties and discharge its responsibilities
in maintaining international security and peace.
91. Analysts have speculated on the reasons for
this decision and suggestions include that it might be down to
a sense of frustration with the United States at its perceived
failure to act in Syria and fear about a potential rapproachment
with Iran; a concern that taking the seat would mean publicly
adopting positions on major international issues, which Saudi
Arabia has traditionally avoided; a desire to take a more assertive
position on Syria and Iran than would be compatible with membership;
or internal power struggles in the Kingdom.
Sir Tom Philips, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, wrote that
the decision sent the West a "strong, and public, message
about their feeling of betrayal."
92. We were surprised and disappointed
by Saudi Arabia's decision to reject a non-permanent seat on the
United Nations Security Council. We believe that Saudi Arabia's
concerns are best expressed from a position on the Council within
the UN system. The Government should encourage its counterparts
in Saudi Arabia to re-engage with the UN Security Council on these
important regional issues.
REGIONAL INFLUENCE: A FORCE FOR
93. Saudi Arabia is a member of the Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC), the Arab League,
and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC),
as well as OPEC.
The Government drew our attention to Saudi Arabia's action in
these regional organisations; Alistair Burt said that there was
"plenty of evidence" of Saudi Arabia exerting its influence
in the region, telling us: "Saudi is looked to by its neighbours;
there is no doubt about that. In both the GCC and, particularly,
in the Arab League, it is a key player." He said Saudi Arabia
had been "fully engaged" in securing Arab League support
for the international military campaign in Libya in 2011, and
highlighted its leadership with regard to Syria:
King Abdullah saw to it that the OIC convened an
extraordinary summit in August 2012 in Mecca, which saw the OIC
decide to suspend Syria's membership of the OIC due to the actions
of the Assad regime.
Our witnesses agreed with the Government that Saudi
Arabia played a valuable role in regional organisations, and several
noted in particular its role in securing regional support for
the 2011 Libyan intervention.
The OIC is hosted by Saudi Arabia, and Sir Alan told that that
Saudi Arabia had "on various occasions called it together
in order to mediate and moderate Islamic fervour in international
affairs", citing Bosnia, Afghanistan and the Rushdie affair
as examples of its use.
Neil Partrick also noted that Saudi Arabia played an important
role as "a reasonable, pragmatic player within OPEC"
and ensures that the oil market remains stable.
94. Saudi Arabia's role in the region was also
notable with regard to the recent developments in Egypt. Saudi
Arabia had publicly expressed concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood
and disquiet about the departure of former President Mubarak.
Following the departure of former President Morsi, Saudi Arabia
reportedly extended an aid package of over £5 billion and
made public statements in support of the army's actions.
95. More broadly, Sir Alan Munro described Saudi
Arabia's value as a foreign policy partner as one of broadly encouraging
moderation in the region, supplemented by "specific instances"
where the UK and Saudi Arabia have shared interests.
However, the contradictory approach highlighted in the above section
on counter-terrorism is also reflected across Saudi Arabia's foreign
policy. Saudi Arabia has enormous religious influence and authority
across the Muslim world. This was mentioned by the FCO and by
most of our witnesses only in a positive sense but, as noted in
the above section, we have also heard significant concern that
while Saudi Arabia is inherently conservative and in favour of
the status quo, its export of radical Wahhabi teaching may be
in the long term destabilising to states in the broader region.
96. Saudi Arabia is an important
regional partner, which is taking an increasingly active international
role. It shares many of the UK's goals in the region and it is
important to work closely with Saudi Arabia on these shared outcomes.
However, the government should be vigilant with regard to where
Saudi Arabia's promotion of religious values may have a destabilising
effect in the long-term, and must take steps with its international
partners to discourage this policy, or to mitigate its effects.
Middle East Peace Process and the Arab Peace Initiative
97. The Government has made the Middle East Peace
Process a focus of its work this year. In January 2013, the Foreign
Secretary expressed UK support for what he hoped would become
"a major effort by the United States on the Middle East peace
processthe greatest effort since the Oslo peace accords".
At his joint press conference with the new Secretary of State
John Kerry on 25 February 2013, the Foreign Secretary stated that
"There is no more urgent foreign policy priority in 2013
than restarting negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians
] my promise to Secretary Kerry today was that the United
Kingdom will make every effort to mobilise the European Union
and Arab states behind decisive moves for peace."
98. With its combination of regional leadership,
religious authority and significant wealth, Saudi Arabia has been
considered an important partner in the Middle East Peace Process.
Saudi Arabia's role was enhanced by the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative,
proposed by then-Crown Prince, King Abdullah to the Arab League,
which set out bold proposals to normalise relations between Israel
and the Arab region, in exchange for a withdrawal from the Occupied
Territories (including East Jerusalem), recognition of an independent
Palestinian state, and a "just settlement" for the refugees.
The Arab League unanimously endorsed the proposal, and re-adopted
it in 2007 at its Riyadh summit. Although Israel rejected the
proposal, it received significant international praise and support,
including by many heads of state, the Quartet on the Middle East
(UN, US, EU, and Russia) in 2003, and the Organisation of Islamic
The API continues to be the subject of discussion and a basis
for this year's initiative by the US.
Saudi Arabia and Yemen
99. The Government highlighted the cooperation
between Saudi Arabia and the UK over Yemen as an example of working
together on shared interests. The Government has made Yemen a
priority in UK foreign policy for counter-terrorism and humanitarian
reasons, while Yemen's location on Saudi Arabia's southern border
makes it a major foreign policy concern for the Saudi government.
After the Yemeni government lost control of large parts of the
country in 2011 amid fears of imminent state collapse, Saudi Arabia
played a primary role in arranging the GCC-brokered initiative
and UN agreement under which the long-time President Ali Abdullah
Saleh eventually agreed to step down and allow for a transition.
The UK, Saudi Arabia and Yemen now co-chair the Friends of Yemen
initiative, which aims to keep Yemen on the international agenda
and coordinate fundraising and stabilization efforts. Saudi Arabia
hosted a Donor Conference in September 2012 at which representatives
from GCC countries, the World Bank and others made pledges totalling
$6.4 billion towards an agreed list of priorities and funding
Government of Yemen stated in March 2013 that of the total $7.9
billion pledged in 2012, $2.7 billion had been approved and $1.8
100. Although there is a long
way still to go in bringing stability to Yemen, this is a good
example of UK-Saudi co-operation to try to bring stabilization
and to promote development in a country that is key to Saudi Arabia's
interests. As such, it could act as a model of high-profile and
substantial British support for locally-led solutions to regional
Saudi Arabia and Iran
101. As with Yemen, the UK and Saudi Arabia share
concerns about Iran, considering it to be a security threat to
other states in the region, to energy security, and to nuclear
non-proliferation in the Middle East. For Saudi Arabia, Iran is
a long-standing rival for regional influence and power, and a
source of genuine concern. Sir Tom Phillips warned:
Iran is Saudi Arabia's No.1 foreign policy strategic
threat, and they do feel threatened, and encircled indeed, by
what they think Iran is trying to do.
102. Alistair Burt told us that the UK's interests
were aligned with regard to Iran:
Saudi Arabia is acutely aware of the presence of
] and of the risks that both it and we believe Iran
poses to the region through its nuclear file and other ways in
which it has sought to interfere with its neighbours. [
It is clearly in our strategic interest that Iran does not become
nuclear -capable, thus leading to the risk of proliferation in
the region. In all such areas our interests are aligned.
However, witnesses suggested that the UK and Saudi
Arabia's motivations for concern, and perception about the seriousness
of the threat and required response, may not always be in alignment.
While our witnesses agreed that UK and Saudi security interests
were aligned with respect to containing Iran's nuclear ambitions
and countering its sponsorship of "proxy militias throughout
they pointed out that the UK did not share in other causes of
Saudi Arabia's long-standing rivalry with Iran. Jane Kinninmont
highlighted that "there are ethnic and sectarian components
of the Saudi policy that are not shared by Britain."
Dr Eyal saw a difference "on the degrees" to which Iran
was considered a problem:
For instance, we would not see Shia as being necessarily
impossible to accommodate in the structure of the Middle East
as it is now. We accept that Iran is a big country in the region
and deserves and has to have its secure place. Indeed, all the
discussion with Iran is predicated on that. I do not think that
we see eye to eye with Saudi Arabia on that; I think that their
belief is that the weaker Iran is, the better.
103. Witnesses told us that Saudi Arabia, and
other Gulf States, are worried about the UK's commitment to preventing
Iran from becoming a possible nuclear weapons state."
However, it is not clear how far Saudi Arabia and the GCC wish
Western states to act. Witnesses referred us to the remarks attributed
to Saudi King Abdullah in US documents published by Wikileaks,
calling for US airstrikes against Iran, and urging the US to 'cut
the head off the snake'.
Dr Eyal agreed that for Saudi Arabia a nuclear Iran would be "an
absolute red line", however, he added that the Saudis "do
not want a convulsion, if they could avoid it."
In the light of this, we note that Saudi Arabia has been willing
to make some conciliatory gestures; in 2012, the then-President
of Iran Mahmood Ahmedinejad visited Mecca at the invitation of
Saudi Arabia for an OIC meeting and was asked to sit beside King
Abdullah in what was interpreted as a gesture of reconciliation.
Following the 2013 election of Dr Rouhani as President of Iran,
there have been hopes of progress in UK-Iran relations and a meeting
has been scheduled at the UN General Assembly in New York in September
104. The UK and Saudi Arabia
share immediate and critical concerns with regard to Iran's nuclear
programme and its interference in states in the region. It will
be important for the Government to work closely with Saudi Arabia
on engaging with Iran as a more constructive regional player.
Saudi Arabia provides vital support for international action via
sanctions. Saudi Arabia's broader rivalry with Iran on ethnic
and religious lines is a cause for concern, but the Saudi leadership
has shown itself willing to act as a pragmatic and useful foreign
policy partner in containing the Iranian threat to regional and
Saudi Arabia and Syria
105. Saudi Arabia has taken an unusually strong
line in response to the Syrian civil war. King Abdullah publicly
condemned the Assad regime after sustained military action began
in 2011, and Saudi Arabia has called repeatedly for a greater
international response to the crisis. Sir Tom Phillips described
Saudi Arabia's leaders as "genuinely morally affronted by
what Assad was doing".
106. The Government considered Syria a shared
interest and concern of Saudi Arabia and the UK, and the shared
desire for a united response, telling us:
The [Saudi] Foreign Minister has expressed a wish
for the violence to come to an end, and for the peaceful political
solution being proposed through the Geneva process to be followed
as a matter of great importance.
The Government also welcomed Saudi Arabia's continuing
support for international efforts to respond to the Syria crisis,
including its support for a united response by the UN Security
Council and its role in both the "core group" and wider
membership of the Friends of Syria. Since the Minister gave evidence,
Saudi Arabia is also reported to have been the driving force behind
renewed efforts in September 2013 to secure an Arab League endorsement
of international action on Syria.
107. Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has been
stridently critical of the international community's failure to
take more action, and Saudi Arabia is widely believed to have
begun arming opposition groups itself.
Saudi Arabia has not confirmed this, but Prince Saud bin Faisal,
the Saudi Foreign Minister, said that
Saudi Arabia will do everything within its capacity,
and we do believe that what is happening in Syria is a slaughter,
a slaughter of innocents [...] We can't bring ourselves to remain
quiet. Morally we have a duty.
The prospect of arming rebel groups has contributed
to fears that Syria will become a proxy conflict between armed
groups funded by external Sunni and Shia regional powers. Alistair
Burt emphasised that Saudi Arabia had not officially confirmed
that it was arming opposition groups, though "they have certainly
provided support to those seeking reform, who are under pressure,
as the United Kingdom has". Mr Burt rejected suggestions
that sectarian and strategic rivalry with Iran was motivating
Saudi Arabia in Syria:
Saudi Arabia is working for a peaceful solution,
and I do not believe that its concerns about Iran, which many
share, in any way get in the way of trying to find the right and
peaceful answer to what is happening in Syria.
Sir Tom Phillips told us that Saudi Arabia's leaders
had learned lessons about the dangers of arming groups in Afghanistan,
and that if they were arming opposition groups they had taken
time to reach a decision on arming rebels so that they could find
"people whom they could work with and who are not people
who will turn into the Al Qaeda threat down the pike."
Most observers agree with this assessment, though they note that
while Saudi Arabia is not arming Al Qaeda, it may be arming hardline
108. Saudi Arabia has been a
strong voice in the Gulf and Arab world in support of international
action on Syria. The UK and Saudi Arabia share a deep concern
about the conflict, a desire for a political solution, and the
requirement for an international multilateral response.
109. We note the reported supply
of arms by Saudi Arabia to groups in Syria; the Government should
set out in its response to this report its assessment of the situation
and the actions it is taking to monitor any groups that are receiving
funding and arms from Saudi Arabia, and its efforts to engage
with the Saudi authorities regarding any concerns about those
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain
110. As Bahrain's nearest and largest neighbour
and main source of financial support, Saudi Arabia has enormous
influence in Bahrain and a close relationship with its Sunni royal
family. Dr Eyal described how the stability of Bahrain's government
is also important to Saudi Arabia's stability and security, principally
because if Bahrain's government were to collapse: it would be
the first monarchy to do so; it would be seen as a victory for
Iran; and it would result in a Shia-dominated government "smack-bang
on the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, which has its own problem
with Shias", all of which would be "really thoroughly
bad news for the Saudis."
111. As such, Saudi Arabia provided increased
support to Bahrain's rulers during its crisis in 2011. Most controversially,
at the height of the protests Saudi Arabia took part in the GCC-mandated
intervention, deploying around 1,000 troops with armoured support
to secure institutions. Since then, it has provided considerable
financial support to the ruling family in Bahrain, pledging to
contribute $10 billion to Bahrain's stabilization and economic
development over the next ten years.
112. Saudi Arabia is widely thought to have
provided backing and support to 'hardliners' in the Bahraini royal
family in 2011, and Sir Roger Tomkys said "I believe that
the Saudis have made it quite clear that they do not intend to
let radical change take place."
Robin Lamb agreed that Saudi Arabia would be willing to make
its displeasure known, citing an example from 2004 when Saudi
Arabia had cut off some oil income to Bahrain as a penalty for
signing a Free Trade Agreement with the US.
Nevertheless, Sir Tom Phillips suggested that it was
open to the political process:
What I experienced from my own direct dialogue with
the Saudis on Bahrain was that they acknowledged from the start
that there had to be a political process there. It was not something
that you could control from a purely security perspective. So
they were encouraging that political dialogue. I think the problem
they have got is that they don't quite see what the end result
is of the dialogue. What is the confessional balance you get to
that does not mean it is, in some sense, a Shia-dominated risk?
There is a bottom line there; that Bahrain does not become what
they would see as an Iranian client state.
Prince Turki Al Faisal confirmed this in his speech
to a meeting in the House of Commons, in which he said:
King Hamad has continued to call for negotiations.
We in Saudi Arabia continue to support that call. But let us be
clear. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will never accept that Iran
take power in Bahrain. This is a fantasy, if anyone, including
the West, believes that such an eventuality can happen on Saudi
113. The Government did not mention Bahrain as
a shared interest for the UK and Saudi Arabia, though when asked,
Mr Burt acknowledged the "special relationship" between
the close neighbours and argued that the UK and Saudi Arabia shared
a desire for the national dialogue in Bahrain to succeed,
"thereby ending the violence and ensuring greater inclusion
and delivery of the BICI recommendations."
However, he acknowledged that this was subject to certain limits
on the Saudi side, which the UK accepted:
Saudi Arabia does not want to see a change in the
monarchy in Bahrain and has made that plain. It believes that
the governance of Bahrain is more secure under that umbrella.
Anything else is for Bahrainis to decide. That is the United Kingdom's
position. However, we do not see a reason to challenge the assumption
made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
114. Robert Lacey was more provocative in his
assessment of our shared interests, arguing that that the worldwide
condemnation of Saudi Arabia's intervention in Bahrain was "understandable,
but hypocritical", adding:
The majority of the inhabitants of Bahrain are Shia
Muslims whose loyalties - social, religious and political - look
beyond Bahrain to Iran and Iraq, Iran's massive new US- and UK-
liberated Shia ally. There is not a single western country, including
Britain, which would welcome a pro-Iranian Shia government dominating
Bahrain and its crucial US naval base. So, inasmuch as Saudi Arabia
is helping to suppress the undoubted political rights of the undoubted
Shia majority of Bahrainis, it is doing our dirty work.
115. Given the UK's close relationship
with both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the Government should engage
with Saudi Arabia on the UK's efforts to promote the reform process
in Bahrain and an inclusive and substantive National Dialogue.
Reform and human rights in Saudi
Arabia: current situation
116. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy ruled
by the Al Saud family, with no legislature or political parties.
Robert Lacey described it as "a family creation, a family
fiefdom and a family business".
At 161 out of 167 on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy
Index 2011, Saudi Arabia was ranked equal to Burma and even lower
than Iran. Constitutionally,
the King rules in accordance with the Shari'a, the sacred
law of Islam. He appoints and leads a Council of Ministers, which
serves as the instrument of royal authority in both legislative
and executive matters. A wider Consultative Council (Majlis al-Shura)
was established in 1993 and acts somewhat like a parliament, reviewing
laws and forming committees. However, the Council is entirely
consultative, with members appointed by the King, and has no legislative
or scrutiny power. Unlike Bahrain, for example, Saudi Arabia does
not have any established political opposition because political
parties are banned and anyone expressing public dissent risks
punishment. Aside from occasional protests in the Eastern region,
there appears to be no organised widespread political movement
against the Saudi leadership.
117. The FCO said that political participation
in Saudi Arabia is limited, but noted that the King had appointed
women to the Shura Council for the first time in 2013, and issued
a decree allowing women to vote in the next municipal elections
in 2015, which it considered a "significant development".
These municipal-level elections in Saudi towns and cities result
in boards with little real power, but as the only official positions
that are elected they have symbolic significance.
118. Saudi Arabia has a very poor human rights
record. Our witnesses and submissions drew our attention to many
and serious human rights concerns, including the use of corporal
punishment; capital punishment; torture; the absence of the rule
of law; severe restrictions on women's rights, freedom of expression
and assembly; and restrictions on the rights of minorities and
migrant workers; as well as abuses related to Saudi Arabia's work
in counter-terrorism and security operations in its Eastern Province.
In addition, they noted that it is virtually impossible to register
a human rights organization, and that activists have been prosecuted
The FCO said many of its human rights concerns centred on punishments
prescribed by Islamic Sharia law, and identified a number of main
concerns regarding human rights in Saudi Arabia. These include
the death penalty, women's rights and torture, as well as freedom
of expression and assembly, religious freedom and the judicial
Is Saudi Arabia reforming?
119. Our witnesses were in agreement that the
human rights situation in Saudi Arabia remained problematic. However,
there was far less consensus as to their assessments of the progress
so far, and whether Saudi Arabia was going in the right direction.
Several of our witnesses gave a quite positive assessment of the
situation, arguing that Saudi authorities are cautiously proceeding
with reforms while dealing with a deeply religious and conservative
society. The FCO's
submission states that "There are indications that the Saudi
Government is slowly encouraging Saudi society to open up."
Witnesses, particularly the former diplomats, endorsed this position,
and some went much further in their praise for the reforms so
far: Sir Tom Phillips considered that King Abdullah "will
go down in Saudi history as one of the great reforming kings."
Sir Alan Munro told us that "we are now seeing the regime,
frankly, pushing at the doors of change with a force that I have
not seen before."
120. Women's rights in particular were highlighted
as an area in which the King was pressing for reform in the face
of a more conservative society. Saudi Arabia was ranked at 127
out of 136 countries in the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap
Index in 2013 (a small rise from 131st of 135 in 2012),
 and women's
rights in Saudi Arabia are a focus of particular international
concern, particularly with regard to the 'Guardianship' system,
which treats women as minors and girls and women of all ages are
forbidden from travelling, studying, or working without permission
from their male guardians. Nevertheless, we were told by witnesses
that the King had put women's rights at the top of the agenda,
 and positive
steps included the appointment in February 2013 of 30 women to
the Shura Council, Saudi Arabia's consultative assembly; the announcement
that women will be able to take part as voters and candidates
in 2015's municipal election; the provision of ID cards, enabling
women to hold bank accounts and open businesses; and the widening
of the scope of jobs deemed suitable for women. Women now make
up 60% of university graduates in Saudi Arabia, and women have
taken high-profile roles in Saudi society, including as a higher
education minister, and roles on the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce
and Jeddah Economic Forum.
121. During our visit in March 2013 we observed
a marked difference in women's rights in comparison to previous
experiences in the Kingdom. Reporting on its visit to Saudi Arabia
in 2006, our predecessor committee wrote:
We were particularly struck by the complete segregation
of society, with Saudi women excluded from meetings. This was
particularly evident at one meeting, then our female interlocutors
observed us via a video link and were unable to participate themselves.
By contrast, women took part in the majority of the
meetings we held in Saudi Arabia. We observed female members of
the Shura Council taking an active part in a debate in the Council
chambers, and women members of the Foreign Affairs and Human Rights
Committees took an active part in our meetings with those committees.
Of course, even with such changes the position of women in Saudi
society is subject to enormous constraint and it was hard for
us to judge how far the changes at the top of society have 'trickled
down' to women at other levels of Saudi society. However, it appeared
undeniable that there was much more acceptance of women taking
a public role and space for women's rights to gradually improve
in Saudi Arabia than there had been only seven years earlier.
We were struck by the extent to which the women we spoke to felt
that progress was being made. Since our visit, there have been
further positive developments, including the Saudi cabinet passing
a ban on domestic violence and other forms of abuse against women,
making domestic violence a punishable crime for the first time.
122. Several of these witnesses considered that
the extent to which Saudi Arabia has enacted reforms is not well-understood
in the West, which tends to focus on the continuing problems and
does not fully consider the "deeply conservative" context
in which the Government is working. Sir Alan Munro described Saudi
Arabia as a "diarchy" in which the monarchy must work
with a powerful religious establishment, and told the Committee
that over the last 20 years
Political reform, as being orchestrated under an
ailinglong may he reign, as I see itKing Abdullah,
has moved to a pitch that has never been seen before. But at every
stage, given this deeply entrenched religious conservatism in
that society, they have got to move at the pace that will carry
the clerical establishment and the conservative constituency with
it. That is a constant preoccupation. [
] Within those constraints,
[...]That is a welcome thing, but there are constraints.
Robert Lacey told us that "The House of Saud
has a generally retrograde image in Western media. Seen from the
inside of a deeply conservative society, however, they often seem
the very opposite - pioneering such innovations as women's education,
the telephone, radio and television, the internet and social media
in the face of fierce and sometimes violent fundamentalist opposition."
123. In addition to praise for attempts to enact
top-down reforms, witnesses also drew attention to longer-term
trends in Saudi Arabia that they considered had set the conditions
for future reform. These included the speedy rise in internet
use and social media, which BBC journalist Frank Gardner has described
as providing "a healthy explosion of free discussion, criticism
and satire on the internet". Saudi Arabia is the fastest-growing
Twitter market in the world,
and Saudi Twitter users recorded 3,000% growth from 2011 to 2012,
which is much higher than the global average.
Other witnesses pointed to the huge increase in educated youth:
Saudi Arabia has spent enormous resources on education in the
last two decades and 160,000 Saudis study abroad on King Abdullah
scholarships each year, which has been regarded as a sign of inevitable
change to come.
124. In contrast, NGOs and others were much more
critical, describing a decidedly more "mixed picture"
with regard to improvements in human rights and reform, drawing
attention to Saudi Arabia's "unflinching repression"
 in its
Eastern Province where 14 people died in protests in 2011-12.
David Mepham, UK Director of Human Rights Watch cautioned that
while there had been "modest improvements" to women's
rights, they should be recognised as starting from a very low
base and the guardianship system remains in place "in all
its essentials". 
Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty
International, highlighted instances which revealed more negative
trends, such as an increased crackdown on activists and human
rights defenders in recent months.
125. Despite some recent improvements,
the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia remains very poor.
The absence of civil and political rights and the use of extreme
punishments with inadequate judicial safeguards remain of deep
concern, as do the rights of women and minorities. We recognise
and welcome the significant steps that have been taken toward
improved rights and freedoms, particularly with regard to women's
rights, but this has started from a very low base.
How effectively is the UK supporting
reform and human rights in Saudi Arabia?
STRATEGY OF ENGAGEMENT
126. The then Minister with responsibility for
the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, told us that
the UK has "a frank and robust relationship with Saudi Arabia
in terms of human rights".
The FCO's Human Rights and Democracy Report for 2011 explains
the UK's strategy of engagement:
Our strategy remains to work with Saudi society,
advocating reform within the existing constitutional framework,
to build support for full application of human rights standards.
In 2011, this involved organising visits and meetings with key
Saudi Arabian interlocutors to deepen mutual understanding on
human rights issues. The Foreign Secretary, Minister for the Middle
East Alistair Burt, and our Ambassador engaged in dialogue with
Saudi Arabian ministers, officials and human rights organisations
to raise our concerns and understand Saudi perceptions of the
issues and the pace of change.
127. The Government states that it raises human
rights issues in public and in private with Saudi leaders and
public, Saudi Arabia has been a long-standing feature of the list
of "countries of concern" in the FCO's human rights
reports, and the FCO issues quarterly updates that monitor the
human rights situation.
In addition, the UK makes public statements on human rights issues,
and FCO ministers have issued five press releases concerning human
rights abuses in Saudi Arabia in 2013.
The Government also claims that it holds conversations about human
rights when it meets officials and ministers in private. For example,
the Deputy Head of Mission at the UK's Embassy in Riyadh discussed
with the Deputy Chairman of the Saudi Human Rights Commission
the section on Saudi Arabia in the FCO's Annual Human Rights Report
2012, and the head of the FCO's Human Rights and Democracy Department,
Louise de Sousa, visited Saudi Arabia for discussions in May 2013.
Alistair Burt said that he and the Foreign Secretary had both
discussed human rights and reform in their meetings with Saudi
128. In its 2012 Human Rights Report, the FCO
highlighted its efforts to cooperate on judicial reform and in
April 2013 the Government said its officials were negotiating
a Memorandum of Understanding in the Justice Sector, and that
the UK was pressing to include a provision on the implementation
of international obligations, particularly the human rights conventions.
This would require pressing Saudi Arabia to ratify the CAT Optional
Protocol, thus establishing a national preventive mechanism.
As of November 2013, the UK and Saudi Arabia are yet to sign this
Memorandum of Understanding.
129. Our witnesses had mixed views of the Government's
strategy. NGOs and human rights activists generally believed that
the Government under-reported the level of human rights abuse
in Saudi Arabia, and did not do enough to put pressure on its
leadership for reform.
130. The Government's application of public and
private pressure garnered considerable comment. While all witnesses
broadly agreed that a combination of public and private pressure
was required, there were a variety of different responses to the
Government's assertion that it used both. At the most negative
end of the scale, a number of witnesses were sceptical about how
far the UK really does raise human rights and reform issues in
private. Chris Doyle said:
I have spoken to diplomats and former diplomats,
and I do not think that they would necessarily share the belief
that, when it really comes down to, say, a British Prime Minister
meeting with one of these major rulers, there are no no-go areas;
I simply do not believe that that is true.
Human Rights Watch said the Government "appears
very reluctant to press the Saudi authorities on human rights
issues and it rarely makes public statements of concern".
David Mepham argued that it seemed "a little too convenient
that, where it might be embarrassing for them to press issues
more publicly, they always prioritise and give more emphasis to
the private route. Both are required to effect change."
He also argued that public criticism had the added benefit of
"talking to the people of that country, so that when there
are movements for change or people pressing for reform, you are
saying, 'We show support and sympathy for your position.'"
Caroline Montagu agreed that public pressure could be useful,
even going so far as to suggest that it would help the Saudi King:
"The reform is top down, so he needs support.[..] I think
that would definitely be welcomed by people such as King Abdullah,
his daughter Princess Adilah and the many reforming members of
the Al Saud family".
131. However, several witnesses, particularly
former diplomats, supported the Government's argument that private
pressure could be more productive. Robin Lamb told us that public
criticism "goes down like a lead balloon",
and Sir Alan Munro argued that it could be counter-productive,
warning of a "backlash factor" whereby British support
for human rights issues makes the role of Saudi reformers more
Tom Phillips agreed, arguing that:
the Saudi Government are making important steps forward.
Yes, of course, from the point of view of our society we would
like it to be more, faster and so on, but I believe it is a system
that is trying to move in the right direction and that we get
more traction by working with it and encouraging it, rather than
banging from the outside.
He told us that as an ambassador he had seen British
ministers raise human rights issues with Saudi ministers, and
he had done the same.
His preference was "absolutely" in favour of private
pressure, stating "That is part of this engagement strategy.
We are working with a friend and an ally."
132. Witnesses suggested several more measures
that the UK should use to apply further pressure and support reforms.
These included attending and monitoring trials and raising named
individual cases in conversations with Saudi Ministers;
co-operation on institutional reform,
including reform of the judicial process as well as offering British
expertise on Shari'a law developed by the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal
in the UK; and
encouraging the potential for Saudi Arabia's Shura Council to
become a more empowered, perhaps even partly elected body.
133. Although we recognise and
are concerned about the poor human rights record in Saudi Arabia,
we are unconvinced that constant and severe public criticism by
the UK Government would result in anything other than disengagement
by the Saudi side. This would achieve none of the UK's goals and
could result in a worsening situation in Saudi Arabia. However,
it is important that the UK maintains credibility at home and
abroad with regard to its human rights work.
134. Democratic governments
such as the UK face a challenge in trying to reconcile their liberal
constituencies at home with the need to maintain relationships
with undemocratic and conservative regimes that are important
to our interests on a regional and global level. We understand
that to encourage a Government such as that of Saudi Arabia toward
reform, a combination of private and public pressure is required.
By their very nature, private conversations are difficult to explain
publicly. However, we are particularly concerned that some witnesses
not only disagreed with UK policy but appeared to disbelieve the
Government's account of its private conversations with Saudi Arabia
on reform. The Government appears to have a credibility problem
and must do more to explain its policies and consider where it
can point to specific progress as a result of its human rights
work. We recommend that the Government consider what confidence-building
measures it could put in place, such as supporting access to Saudi
Arabia for NGOs and journalists, and conduct a review of what
information it is able to make available either to NGOs or in
the public domain.
135. The UK is well-placed to
provide legal and judicial reform assistance and we recommend
that the government make this constructive contribution a focus
of its human rights work with Saudi Arabia. Despite the considerable
challenges, promising steps appear to have been taken toward providing
constructive assistance but these must be converted into solid
and reportable programmes. The UK should also encourage the development
of Saudi Arabia's consultative systems, and we particularly welcome
initiatives such as parliamentary exchanges in this regard.
136. At the multilateral level, the UK participates
in the United Nations Human Rights Council, which conducts a peer-review
examination of each country on a rolling four-yearly basis, the
Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Saudi Arabia's UPR debate took
place on 21 October 2013. In Saudi Arabia's last UPR in 2009,
the UK recommended that Saudi Arabia guarantee the right to form
civil-society organizations; abolish the guardianship system;
and amend the Code of Criminal Practice to stipulate that only
individuals aged over 18 will be tried as adults. In its 2012
Human Rights report, the FCO states that it is "committed
to the success of the Universal Periodic Review process",
but in June 2013 the Government told us that it had not yet determined
its priorities for its recommendations in 2013. This was surprising,
as we understand that the FCO usually prepares for UPRs some months
in advance. Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch both made submissions to
the UPR that were highly critical of Saudi Arabia's record, expressing
disappointment that Saudi Arabia appears to have implemented none
of the central recommendations made to it in its previous UPR
137. At the UPR in October 2013, the UK Government
raised written questions relating to freedom of expression; the
establishment and operation of genuinely independent human rights
organisations; measures to prevent individuals under the
age of 18 years from facing the death penalty and those under
16 years from marrying; torture allegations and ratifying the
Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT); and freedom
to choose a religion.
In a statement, the Government said that it supports efforts made
by the Saudi government to improve its human rights record, but
is disappointed that Saudi Arabia has not fulfilled all the
recommendations accepted under the last Universal Periodic Review.
The UK made the following two recommendations:
1) First, that the Saudi government allows women
to participate fully and equally in society by abolishing the
guardianship system, appointing more women to positions of authority,
and increasing freedom of movement;
2) Second, that the Saudi government codifies its
criminal law to bring it into line with international law and
standards, and ensures it is applied effectively by an independent
and impartial judiciary. Saudi Arabia's justice system remains
a concern; for example, prolonged pre-trial detention periods
and the improper treatment of detainees. On women's rights, the
UK remains concerned at the severe restrictions.
138. The UN provides an important
forum for constructive discussion of Saudi Arabia's progress and
continuing challenges. Saudi Arabia's Universal Periodic Review
is an opportunity for the UK to make clear its concerns about
and support for progress on reform and human rights in Saudi Arabia.
Following Saudi Arabia's Universal Periodic Review in October,
the government should encourage Saudi Arabia to engage constructively
with the United Nations.
45 Q 87 Back
Also known as the Yom Kippur War Back
Q 87 Back
Ev 133-138 Back
"Foreign Secretary visits Saudi Arabia", FCO press release,
5 July 2011 Back
Q 206 Back
See, for example, speech by Foreign Secretary William Hague, 'Britain's
values in a networked world', 15 September 2010 Back
An annual ministerial-level dialogue that ran between 2005 and
2011 (with some interruptions) Back
"Foreign Secretary visits Saudi Arabia", FCO press release,
5 July 2011 Back
Q 209 Back
UK-UAE Taskforce (est 2010); UK-Oman Joint Working Group (est.
2011); UK-Kuwait Joint Steering Group (est. 2012); and UK-Bahrain
Joint Working Group (est. 2012) Back
Q 398 Back
Q 209 Back
Q 126 Back
"UK and Saudi Arabia drive forward bilateral trade",
FCO press release, 24 June 2010 Back
Q 88 Back
Net level of trust calculated as : (strongly trust + tend to trust)
- (strongly distrust + tend to distrust) Back
British Council, 'Trust Pays: How international cultural relationships
build trust in the UK and underpin the success of the UK economy',
'Arab Youth Survey 2012', ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller, p.23. Percentages
are based on the number of respondents who describe themselves
as "very favourable" toward those states.www.arabyouthsurvey.com
'Arab Youth Survey 2012', ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller, p.4. www.arabyouthsurvey.com
'Hard Choices Ahead', Chatham House - YouGov Survey 2012, British
attitudes toward the UK's international priorities, July 2012 Back
"Saudi Arabia's Image Falters among Middle East Neighbors",
Pew Research Center: Global Attitudes Project, 17 October 2013 Back
Ev 106 Back
BBC Trust, A BBC Trust report on the impartiality and accuracy
of the BBC?s coverage of the events known as the "Arab Spring",,
June 2012, p.57-58 Back
Q 236 Back
"British Embassy Riyadh's Photo Competition", FCO Press
Release, 22 August 2013 Back
See, for example Sixth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee,
Session 2010-11, The Implications of Cuts to the BBC World
Service, HC 849, Vol I Back
BBC Media centre, 'Record audiences for BBC's Arabic Services',
5 December 2011 Back
BBC World Service, Annual Review 2012/13, p.54 Back
Ev w121 Back
Ev w122 Back
Ev w123 Back
British Council, Trust Pays: How international cultural relationships
build trust in the UK and underpin the success of the UK economy,
Q 2 Back
Q 96 Back
IMF Country Report No. 13/229, 'Saudi Arabia, 2013 Article IV
Consultation', July 2013. The 'BRICS' countries are Brazil,
Russia, India, China, and South Africa; five states identified
as large emerging markets. Back
IMF Country Report No. 13/230, 'Saudi Arabia: Selected Issues',
July 2013 Back
"Saudis maintain high spending strategy", Financial
Times, 2 Jan 2013 Back
Q 6 and Q 7 Back
'The haves and the have-nots', The Economist, 13 July 2013 Back
Deloitte Report, Major construction opportunities valued at
US$ 500 billion in GCC, May 2012. See also: Keynote speech
by Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, 'Opportunity Arabia 8 Conference',
London, 22 September 2011 Back
Q 115 Back
Q 115 and Q 124 Back
Ev 135 and UKTI, Doing Business in Saudi Arabia, 2012.
Ev 135 Back
UKTI, Doing Business in Saudi Arabia, 2012. www.ukti.gov.uk Back
"Prime Minister visits Saudi Arabia", Prime Minister's
Office press release, 13 January 2012 Back
'Saudi Arabia', UKTI website, accessed November 2013, www.ukti.gov.uk
Ev 136 Back
Q 125 and Q 133 Back
Q 400 Back
Middle East Association, 'Opportunity Arabia 10' conference information
for event on 4 October 2013. Accessed online November 2013, www.the-mea.co.uk
Q 120 Back
The Rt Hon Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean was also previously
FCO Minister of State for the Middle East (2003-05) and Minister
for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords
(2001-03). Quotation from keynote speech by Baroness Symons of
Vernham Dean, 'Opportunity Arabia 8 Conference', London, 22 September
'Saudi Arabia awards $22.5bn metro contracts', Financial Times,
29 July 2013 Back
"Massive boost to British industry in biggest ever petrochemical
project", UKTI press release, 24 Jun 2013. www.ukti.gov.uk
Q 134. Mr Lloyd specifically did not mention the post in Al Khobar
by name. Back
Q 145 Back
Q 401 Back
Ev 106 Back
Ev w121 Back
Q 154 and Q 155 Back
"Government continues to promote arms to Saudi Arabia as
human rights deteriorate", Campaign Against Arms Trade press
release, 21 May 2013 Back
The CAEC's annual report provides detailed lists of all the equipment
licenced under these provisions. See: Committees on Arms Export
Controls, First Joint Report of the Business, Innovation and Skills,
Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development Committees
of Session 2013-14, Scrutiny of Arms Exports and Arms Control
(2013): Scrutiny of the Government's UK Strategic Export Controls
Annual Report 2011 published in July 2012, the Government's Quarterly
Reports from October 2011 to September 2012, and the Government's
policies on arms exports and international arms control issues,
HC 205, 1 July 2013 Back
HC Deb, 27 June 2007, col 796W Back
Q 180 Back
"Revival of UK Saudi Defense Pact boosts sales", Aviation
International News (AIN) online, 25 May 2012 Back
HC Deb, 13 December 2012, col 154WH and also oral evidence taken
before the Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK's Influence
on 8 July 2013, HL (2013) Q43 [Lt General Simon Mayall CB] Back
HC Deb, 2 September 2013, col 15 Back
'David Cameron defends 'legitimate' arms deals during Gulf states
tour', The Telegraph, 5 November 2012 Back
Ev 135 Back
Q 179 Back
See, for example, Q 175 and Q 214 Back
Ev 61 Back
Q 258 and Ev 115 Back
See, for example, Ev 135 and HC Deb, 13 December 2012, col 157WH Back
'Joint defence partnership between UK and the UAE announced',
BBC News online, 6 November 2012 Back
'David Cameron arrives in Gulf on arms trade trip', Guardian,
5 November 2012 Back
Committees on Arms Export Controls, First Joint Report of the
Business, Innovation and Skills, Defence, Foreign Affairs and
International Development Committees of Session 2013-14 - Scrutiny
of Arms Exports and Arms Control (2013), Vol. II: Memorandum
from the Chair of the Committees, para 430 Back
Government Response to Committees on Arms Export Controls, First
Joint Report of Session 2012-13, Scrutiny of Arms Exports (2012):
UK Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2010, Quarterly Reports
for July to December 2010 and January to September 2011, the Government's
Review of arms exports to the Middle East and North Africa, and
wider arms control issues, Cm 8441, page 33 Back
Q 215 Back
Q 173 Back
HC Deb, 15 May 2013, col 204W Back
Q 183 Back
Q 11 Back
Transparency International, Corruption perceptions index 2012,
Q 68 Back
Q 177 Back
Q 177 and Q182 Back
Q 179 Back
Q 171 Back
Q 171 and Q 177 Back
Ev 135 Back
Figures are as at April 2012,HC Deb 19 Dec 2012, Col 837W Back
According to government figures. The Campaign Against Arms Trade
has published a more detailed recent breakdown obtained by email
from MODSAP on 10 July 2013: According to this, as at l April
2013, there were 69 civilians and 44 military personnel based
in the UK, and 31 civilians and 46 military personnel based in
Saudi Arabia. caat.org.uk Back
"Royal Navy Sailors share 500 years of seafaring knowledge
with Saudi partners", Ministry of Defence press release,
28 February 2013 www.royalnavy.mod.uk Back
The UK has 20 naval, 40 army and 30 air force personnel stationed
in Oman. See HC Deb, 19 Dec 2012, Col 834W Back
HC Deb, 19 Dec 2012, Col 834W Back
HC Deb, 27 June 2007, Col 796W Back
HC Deb, 25 October 2012, col 983W Back
Q 361 Back
Q 206 Back
Ev w61 Back
Q 363 Back
Q 451 Back
Q 452 Back
Speech by Foreign Secretary William Hague, 'Countering terrorism
overseas', 14 February 2013, at the Royal United Services Institute.
Ev 134 Back
See, for example, the Statement by the Director of the Central
Intelligence Agency David H. Petraeus to Congress on 'The Terrorist
Threat Ten Years After 9/11', 13 September 2011 Back
'Brennan nomination exposes criticism on targeted killings and
secret Saudi base', Washington Post, 5 February 2013 Back
Ev 135 Back
Q 10, and see also Ev w88-91 [C.R.G. Murray] Back
Q 184 Back
Q 73 Back
Q 186. See also the Statement by Under Secretary for Terrorism
and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey, Testimony Before the
Senate Committee on Finance, 1 April 2008 Back
Saudi Arabia is 'biggest funder of terrorists', The Independent,
6 December 2010. See also 'US embassy cables: Hillary Clinton
says Saudi Arabia 'a critical source of terrorist funding'', The
Guardian, 5 December 2010 Back
Q 184-186 Back
HC Deb, 3 September 2013, col 322W Back
Ev w82 - 88 [Redress], Ev 114-119 [Amnesty International],Ev 111-14
[Human Rights Watch] Back
Ev 116 Back
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights and Democracy:
The 2012 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, April 2013,
Q 403 Back
Ev 135 Back
Ev 141 Back
Ev 135-136 Back
Q 369 and Ev 133 Back
Q 30 Back
Speech by HRH Prince Turki al Faisal for the Henry Jackson Society
at the House of Commons, 'A Saudi Perspective on a Changing Middle
East', 12 September 2013. Back
'Pique your partners', The Economist, 26 October 2013 Back
'Saudis reject Security Council seat, angry over Mideast inaction',
Reuters, 18 October 2013, Back
See, for example, 'Saudi Arabia and the UN: Why the snub?', The
Economist, 21 October 2013 Back
'What's got into the Saudis?', Tom Phillips for CNN, 19
October 2013 Back
The Arab League, or League of Arab States, is an association of
22 Arabic-speaking countries (including Palestine, which it considers
independent). Foreign Ministers usually meet twice a year to strengthen
ties and coordinate policies. Back
Formally the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the OIC was
established to strengthen the solidarity and cooperation among
its 57 Member States. Its secretariat is based in Jeddah, Saudi
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is
an intergovernmental organisation of 12 states. Its objective
is to co-ordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries,
in order to secure fair and stable prices. Back
Q 426 Back
Q 248 and Q 426 Back
Q 102 Back
Q 2 Back
'Why Saudi Arabia is taking a risk by backing the Egyptian coup',
The Guardian, 20 August 2013 Back
Q 102 Back
HC Deb, 22 January 2013, col 156 Back
'Foreign Secretary and US Secretary of State press conference',
FCO news story, 25 February 2013. www.gov.uk Back
The OIC endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative at its summit in Beirut,
Lebanon in March 2002 Back
'Netanyahu signals readiness to consider 2002 Arab peace plan'
Reuters, 5 June 2013 Back
'Donors pledge $6.4bn in aid to Yemen', Financial Times,
4 September 2012 Back
HC Deb, 20 May 2013, col 518W Back
Q 253 Back
Q 427 Back
Q 187 Back
Q 30 Back
Q 187 Back
Q 30 Back
Q 253 Back
Q 189 Back
'Saudi king sits next to Iran's Ahmadinejad in goodwill gesture',
Reuters, 14 August 2012 Back
Q 433 Back
See, for example, 'Arab League Endorses International Action',
The New York Times, 1 September 2013 Back
See, for example, 'Saudi Arabia in secret deals to arm Syrian
opposition', The Times, 27 February 2012; and ''Saudi weapons'
seen at Syria rebel base', BBC News online, 8 October 2012
'US and Saudi send warnings to Iran and Syria', Al Jazeera, 4
March 2013. www.aljazeera.com/news Back
Q 433 Back
Q 252 Back
See, for example, 'Syria's Secular and Islamist Rebels: Who Are
the Saudis and the Qataris Arming?', Time Magazine, 18
September 2012; and 'Insight: Saudi Arabia boosts Salafist rivals
to al Qaeda in Syria', Reuters, 1 October 2013 Back
Q 191 Back
"GCC Provides $20 billion in Support for Bahrain and Oman",
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington DC press release,
10 March 2011. www.saudiembassy.net Back
Q 46, see also Jane Kinninmont: Bahrain: Beyond the Impasse,
Chatham House, June 2012 Back
Q 46 Back
Q 242 Back
Speech by HRH Prince Turki al Faisal for the Henry Jackson Society
at the House of Commons, 'A Saudi Perspective on a Changing Middle
East', 12 September 2013 Back
A new round of national dialogue talks began in Bahrain in February
2013 between representatives from 'loyalist' national societies,
members of the parliament, opposition political societies, and
three government ministers. Back
Q 427. "BICI" refers to the Bahrain Independent Commission
of Inquiry. Back
Q 427 Back
Ev 120 Back
Ev 115 Back
See Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index 2011. The EIU's
Democracy Index 2012placed Saudi Arabia at 163 of 167 (which was
ranked 158th) Back
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights and Democracy:
The 2012 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, April 2013,
Ev 111-114 [Human Rights Watch], Ev 114-119 [Amnesty International],
Ev 130-133 [Caroline Montagu], Ev w82-88 [Redress], Ev w6-7, Ev
w75-77 [Index on Censorship] Back
Ev 136 and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights and
Democracy: The 2012 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report,
April 2013, pp 209-213 Back
See, for example, Q 96-98, Q 219, Ev 131 Back
Ev 136 Back
Q 207 Back
Q 99. See also Ev 130-133 and Ev w115-120 Back
World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2013,
Q 99 Back
Ev 130 Back
Foreign Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2005-06, Foreign
Policy Aspects of the War Against Terrorism, HC 573, para
'Saudi Arabia cabinet passes ban on domestic violence', The
Independent, 29 August 2013 Back
Q 99 Back
'Twitter usage is booming in Saudi Arabia', Global Web Index
blog, globalwebindex.net Back
'Through the Eyes of Twentysomethings-Murphy', book review, Saudi-US
Relations Information Service (SUSRIS). susris.com Back
Ev w121-124, Q 206 and Q 219 Back
Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012, January 2012, hrw.org
Q 256 Back
Q 410 Back
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights and Democracy:
The 2011 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, April 2012 Back
See, for example, Q 409 and HC Deb, 22 March 2013, col 874W Back
Latest update available September 2013, fco.gov.uk Back
Deduced from FCO website archive Back
HC Deb, 27 June 2013, col 380W Back
Q410 and HC Deb, 15 May 2013, c244W Back
HC Deb, 22 April 2013, Col 641W Back
See Appendix 1 for a list of extant MOUs and treaties, provided
by the FCO. Back
Q 257, Q 278, Ev w82, Ev w77 Back
Q 76. See also Ev w7 Back
Ev 111 Back
Q 266 Back
Q 334 Back
Q 38 Back
Q 100 Back
Q 219 Back
Q 224 Back
Q 229. See also Ev w22-23 [Sir Harold Walker] Back
Q 262 Back
Q 337 Back
Q 329 Back
Q 16 Back
Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia: Unfulfilled Promises,
Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, October-November
2013, p.3; Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia: UPR Submission
September 2013, 30 September 2013, hrw.org Back
For a full list of the eight questions raised in advance by the
UK, see United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights, 'Universal Periodic Review - Saudi Arabia' web page, "Additional
advance questions to Saudi Arabia". ohchr.org. The UK was
one of nine states to raise written questions in advance. Back
"Seventeenth Session of Human Rights Council Universal Periodic
Review Working Group, Geneva, 21 October to 1 November 2013",
FCO press release, 22 October 2013 Back