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UK 'privately apologised' to Saudi Arabia over human rights sanctions

Saudi Arabia has come under increased scrutiny since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 July, 2020

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Britain's defence minister reportedly called his Saudi counterpart to heap praise on the kingdom a day after UK sanctions were imposed on Saudi nationals.


The UK government has been accused of privately apologising to Saudi Arabia just a day after criticising its human rights record and imposing sanctions on 20 of the kingdom's nationals.

British Defence minister Ben Wallace reportedly called his Saudi counterpart, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, on Wednesday to heap praise on the Saudi royal.

The call was not officially reported by London, but was disclosed in a press statement from the official Saudi Press Agency on Wednesday.

“His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Minister of Defense, received yesterday a phone call from His Excellency British Defence Secretary [sic], Mr Ben Wallace, during which the partnership between the two countries was discussed, especially in the defence field, and the efforts made by the two countries to enhance regional and international security,” the statement read.

Saudi media reports added that Wallace “expressed his country’s appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s role in addressing threats to stability in the region” and "affirmed the country’s government’s keenness to strengthen defence relations between the two friendly countries, especially in the field of military exports to the Kingdom.”

Speaking to The Independent, Liberal Democrat party leadership candidate and MP Layla Moran said: "It looks like the UK government took action against Saudi individuals one day, then called to apologise privately the next."

'Magnitsky-style' sanctions

The UK Foreign Office sanctioned 49 groups and individuals across the world for violating human rights, including Saudi citizens linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The individuals face visa bans and will have their assets frozen for alleged human rights abuses under the UK's new post-Brexit sanctions regime.

"The new 'Magnitsky'-style sanctions regime will target those who have been involved in some of the gravest human rights violations and abuses around the world," the UK foreign office said in a statement.

The Saudi citizens mentioned in the list are Ahmed al-Asiri, who was deputy head of Saudi intelligence services and said to have commissioned the 15 man team sent to Turkey to murder Khashoggi.

Political advisor to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saud Al-Qahtani - dubbed the "Saudi Steve Bannon" - was also mentioned on the list, for allegedly being part of the team orchestrating the killing of the Saudi journalist. 

Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and a columnist for The Washington Post was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul on 2 October 2018.

The Saudi insider-turned-critic was strangled, his body cut into pieces by a 15-man Saudi squad inside the consulate, according to Turkish officials.

His remains have never been found despite repeated calls by Turkey for the Saudis to cooperate in an investigation into his disappearance.

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