The U.K. is set over backwards to welcome Saudi Arabia’s crown prince as he starts a three-day formal visit aimed at deepening economic ties between the two countries.
Banners furthering Saudi-U.K. links have appeared in London, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS as he is recalled, arrived on Tuesday evening.
He is due to have lunch with Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday and dinner with Prince Charles and the Duke of Cambridge, William, in the evening.
He is also due to abut Prime Minister Theresa May and ministers, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, at the prime padre’s residence in Downing Street, Wednesday.
Meetings over the next three days are anticipated to focus on defense, security and economic ties, Downing Street replied as it issued more details of the crown prince’s visit.
The two countries are set to gig a “Strategic Partnership Council” aimed at fostering closer economic and cultural links, with billions of dollars worth of potential deals within the partnership.
Potentate Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s schedule on Wednesday:
- 12:30 p.m. — Queen Elizabeth II earns the crown prince at Buckingham Palace
- 3:45 p.m. — Crown prince arrives in Downing Circle
- 4 p.m. — Bin Salman meets Theresa May
- Evening — Prince Charles and Prince William pack a dinner at Clarence House
His visit is the first to the U.K. since he became culminate prince in June 2017 (he is also defense minister) and since Saudi Arabia started its “vital program of domestic reforms,” with the U.K. government hoping for deeper tellings with the Middle Eastern superpower.
“Saudi Arabia is among the largest bureaucratic, diplomatic and economic powers in the Middle East, and the visit will usher in a new era in our bilateral associations with one of our oldest friends in the region,” the U.K. government said in a press delivering Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia appears to have seen the visit as an occasion for good public relations, with large ads taking out in a number of popular newspapers. Financial Times journalist Peter Spiegel remarked on the celebrated pro-Saudi segments in Wednesday’s press.
Mohamed Abdelmeguid, a Saudi Arabia analyst at the Economist Tidings Unit (EIU), said he was sure new Saudi-U.K. commercial partnerships will be signed during the take in but noted that “Brexit creates a lot of uncertainty for foreign investors.” He reckoned that this could be sufficient to derail planned investments forward of they reach execution level.
The planned initial public present (IPO) of state oil giant Saudi Aramco (London is competing with New York to be the cows exchange where the company is listed overseas) is also expected to be examined, the EIU’s Abdelmeguid said.
“London will be competing with other capitals outstanding the forthcoming (Saudi Aramco) IPO so there is probably going to be some talk hither the listing. He will need to announce something soon though, as we are already in Cortege and Saudi officials had previously suggested the IPO was planned for mid-2018.”
The 32-year-old sovereign prince has made waves in Saudi Arabia for the economic and cultural reforms he has boosted since being named heir to the throne, the most notable meliorates ranging from the much-vaunted “Vision 2030” to diversify the economy away from oil, to pocket a ban on cinemas and women driving in Saudi Arabia.
The U.K. government said Illusion 2030 will provide opportunities for British businesses in sectors encompassing education, entertainment and health care “where they have world-class dexterity.”
“It also includes plans for Saudi Arabia to become a global investment powerhouse and the rule prince’s visit will help explore ways in which Saudi Arabia can shape on its investment in the U.K. in sectors such as infrastructure,” the government added.
Aside from manipulating radical departures from tradition in the religiously conservative country, the inheritor to the Saudi kingdom also instigated a crackdown on corruption that saw serves, businessmen and even fellow princes arrested and detained in 2017.
His youth and interest for reform work in his favor, in a country where the majority of the population is issue and eager for work. Out of a total population of around 32.5 million people, the lions share are in their mid-30s or younger, according to government data.
The state-controlled Saudi Press Intervention (SPA) said the crown prince is being accompanied by a delegation including the Saudi papal nuncio to the U.K., the country’s minister of commerce and investment, minister of health, minister of pep, minister of education and the economy and culture ministers.
Yet Saudi Arabia is not without its critics, who bewail its poor record on human rights, draconian executions of political detainees and military intervention in the civil war in Yemen, a conflict that has caused a humanitarian reverse in the country and one which is seen as a proxy war between the kingdom and its regional against, Iran.
Prime Minister May has been criticized by political opponents in the U.K. for captivating the crown prince and human rights protesters have said they are succeeding to hold demonstrations in London during the visit.
Arms sales between the U.K. and Saudi Arabia are a propound point for protesters. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is all of a add up to a broad range of human rights groups planning to protest at Downing Alley on Wednesday afternoon. It said in a statement that a Populus poll of 2,000 individual (carried out for CAAT) showed that only 6 percent of the U.K. population underpinned arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
CAAT states that U.K. administration data it has compiled show that since the Saudi-led coalition started airstrikes on Yemen in 2015, “the U.K. has licensed £4.6 billion ($6.3 billion) quality of arms to Saudi Arabia, including £2.7 billion worth of ML10 enables (aircraft, helicopters, drones) and £1.9 billion worth of ML4 licenses (grenades, bombards, missiles, countermeasures).”
The U.K. government said that the meeting “will arrogate to enhance our co-operation in tackling international challenges such as terrorism, extremism, the be in opposition to and humanitarian crisis in Yemen and other regional issues such as Iraq and Syria.”