THE INVITATIONSaudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Receives Invitation from the UK

The Saudi Arabian embassy has informed the BBC that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has received an invitation to visit the UK. While No 10 has not confirmed specific engagements yet, a spokesperson stated that the prime minister anticipates meeting the crown prince “at the earliest opportunity.”

This potential visit would mark the prince’s first trip to the UK since the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Western condemnation followed the murder of Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s government.

Despite Prince Mohammed denying any involvement, US intelligence agencies concluded that he likely authorized the killing. This prompted UK ministers to condemn the act and later impose sanctions on 20 Saudi nationals implicated in the incident.

Downing Street confirmed that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had already engaged in a conversation with the crown prince, discussing their commitment to enhancing the trade and investment relationship between their nations. Additionally, defense and security cooperation were highlighted.

While the exact details of the visit are yet to be finalized, reports indicate that the Saudis have been planning this visit for at least a month. The prince has expressed his desire to visit the UK, with dates under consideration falling in the first half of October.

The invitation has faced mixed reactions. While the Liberal Democrats criticized it, asserting that it sends a signal of impunity, Labour emphasized the importance of dialogue with Saudi Arabia, addressing human rights concerns.

The UK has been indicating a desire to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia, a move evident through the nation’s trillion-pound investment fund office in London. Critics have accused Saudi Arabia of using international sports deals to “sportswash” its human rights record.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has invested in global sports, including taking over Premier League club Newcastle United and securing a significant stake in professional golf. While discussions regarding a potential visit by the crown prince have not encompassed trade deals, the UK government has expressed interest in establishing a trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Saudi Arabia is a key member. Such a deal would potentially boost investment opportunities in the UK.

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