Britain’s foreign secretary says she doesn’t recall approaching London’s Gulf allies on human rights issues, but insists she did
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told a hearing on Tuesday that she had raised her human rights concerns with Britain’s allies in the Gulf, but would couldn’t name a single time that she did. Although he insisted that the UK oppose “authoritarian regimes” around the world, Truss said that Saudi Arabia and other totalitarian oil-producing states are “the partners.”
In a speech to Commonwealth leaders last week, Truss argued that Britain and its former imperial territories should act as a “rampart” against Russia and China, and a “solid counterweight to authoritarian regimes” in general. When it comes to Russia, Truss has taken a hardline stance, telling reporters at the NATO summit on Wednesday that Britain and its allies must “defeat Russia first, negotiate later.”
However, his attitude towards Middle Eastern regimes that supply British oil is more flexible.
Speaking at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday, Truss declined to describe the Gulf states as “authoritarian,” rather saying that they are “UK partners”.
Liz Truss refuses to call Saudi Arabia an authoritarian state.Chris Bryant – Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. No, yes? Liz Truss – I would say Saudi Arabia is an important partner for the UK. #Annoyingpic.twitter.com/3V1LclzdU1
— Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@Haggis_UK) June 28, 2022
Asked by Labor MP Chris Bryant whether Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Truss dodged the question, repeating “What I would say is that Saudi Arabia is an important partner for the UK.”
“81 executions in one day in Saudi Arabia, and you don’t think it’s an authoritarian regime? Bryant insisted, referring to the execution of 81 criminals in a single day in March, more than the total number of death sentences handed down in the Saudi Kingdom last year.
Again, Truss did not respond and said she was mostly focused on “the threat from Russia.” She added that with the UK cutting itself off from Russian oil imports, “It is important to build a close trade relationship with the Gulf States.”
“If a country is an authoritarian regime, it’s fine to do business with them as long as the authoritarianism is only within its own borders, isn’t it?” Bryant continued, to which Truss again brought up Russia and China.
Truss then said she had previously raised human rights concerns with Gulf state leaders, but Bryant cut her off, saying Truss’s spokesperson had said she didn’t. had done no such thing.
“I will have to come back to the committee” said Truss. “I will write to you with the details.”
“Can’t you remember a single human rights issue you raised with a Gulf state leader?” Bryant pushed.
“I raised specific issues” she insisted, but when pressed to name one, Truss said she didn’t want to “enter into all the details of private conversations.”
The UK last week opened trade talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. While the initial list of government objectives for an agreement included references to “human rights” and the “rule of law,” these entries were deleted from the final list.
London hopes the £33bn ($40bn) trade deal will make up for the post-Brexit shortfall between the UK and the EU, as it simultaneously looks to the Gulf and Norway for supply its fossil fuels.