UK royals begin Gulf tour, amid human rights' protests
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall landed in Oman's capital Muscat on Friday, and will visit the UAE and Bahrain during their week-long trip.
However, the visit has been condemned by an arms' campaign group, claiming it is "a sign of soft power" as UK weapons' manufacturers eye further deals in an already lucrative market blighted by poor human rights' records.
"These visits send a message of political support to the regimes, providing them with positive images, symbolic support and a stamp of approval from the future king of the UK," said Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
"These governments don't just have appalling human rights records, they are also armed and supported by the UK."
The royal couple have 50 engagements scheduled over the next seven days, aiming to promote UK partnerships in areas such as wildlife conservation and women in leadership.
CAAT has urged the pair to raise human rights concerns.
|Photos: Royals tour the Middle East|
One site that Prince Charles will visit is the UK's new naval base in Bahrain, a controversial $18 million project that has been paid for by the Bahraini government, CAAT said.
It has been condemned by Bahraini human rights campaigners and was met with protests outside the UK embassy in Sitra, with activists complaining that London was being rewarded by the Gulf state's monarchy for its silence over political jailings.
"If Prince Charles is concerned about the people living under repression then he must use his platform to speak up for them," Smith added.
Protests in Bahrain by the country's Shia majority were brutally put down by a combined Gulf military force led by Saudi Arabia in 2011.
But smaller scale demonstrations have continued despite a wave of arrests of government opponents, and limited attacks on security services by unknown gunmen.