The Liberal Democrats have committed to holding the Government to account over the promises David Cameron made in the debate over airstrikes in Syria. The Liberal Democrats believe that the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia continues to be a key concern.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the antithesis of a liberal state. Despite nods to opening up the democratic process in the recent years, the reality is that this is still a country where nearly all freedoms are restricted.
The involvement of Saudi Arabia is critical to the success of the Syrian Peace Process. Saudi Arabia carries a huge amount of influence in the region. It is considered a spiritual leader by many Sunnis and has the resources and convening power to bring together disparate groups as well the means by which to help squeeze supply lines to ISIL and other militant groups.
Saudi Arabia also has its own agenda, and is committed to maintaining its own regional power while diminishing the power of the Iranian State and Shia Muslims. This is most visible in the Sunni/Shia cold war playing out in Yemen at severe humanitarian cost.
The UK government has a responsibility to engage with Saudi Arabia as a key regional state, but it is important that this engagement does not become complicit acceptance of all that Saudi Arabia does, either internally or externally.
We believe there are a number of areas where the UK government’s interaction with Saudi Arabia is hypocritical, illiberal and ultimately endangers any chance of long term stability in the Middle East. Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians will be putting pressure on the UK government in the following areas:
On 5th January, Tim Farron raised a number of these points in Parliament:
“The executions over the weekend, including that of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, must surely raise fundamental questions about the United Kingdom’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. People in the UK have every right to want to know what arrangements we are entering into as a country with another country that has acted with such brutality and with such disregard to the impact of its actions on co-operation across the middle east, especially in the light of the Vienna process and the ongoing conflict involving Daesh. Will the Government now commit to publishing both the memorandum of understanding on security, which was signed by the Home Secretary on behalf of the United Kingdom, and the memorandum of understanding on judicial co-operation, both of which have been withheld in full despite Freedom of Information Act requests? Bearing in mind the Saudi Government’s appalling record on human rights, especially the rights of women, will the Government call on Saudi Arabia to step down from chairing the UN Human Rights Council? The Minister carefully avoided condemning the actions of Saudi Arabia over the weekend, so will he do so now? Clearly, Saudi Arabia has a great influence over this Government. Will this Government now prove that they have some influence over Saudi Arabia?”
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