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Boris Johnson arrived in Saudi Arabia today saying he was ‘glad to be back’ despite being accused of going from ‘dictator to dictator’ to shore up UK energy supplies.
The PM has batted away jibes that he is making more compromises with unpalatable regimes to shore up energy supplies, insisting the UK can still ‘stick to our principles’.
He pledged he will raise human rights issues when he meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – days after the Kingdom staged a mass execution of 81 ‘criminals’.
But Labour and some Tory MPs have sounded alarm at the idea of cosying up to the Saudis, even thought families are struggling with soaring pump prices and household bills amid the Ukraine standoff.
In bruising clashes with deputy PM Dominic Raab in the Commons this afternoon, Angela Rayner said ministers seemed to be going ‘cap in hand from one dictator to another’ – adding: ‘Is their only plan to keep on begging?’
Mr Johnson has also sounded a downbeat tone on the prospects of securing an increase in oil production, as he stressed that more investment from the Middle East in renewable energy would help.
Boris Johnson arrived in Saudi Arabia today saying he was ‘glad to be back’ despite being accused of going from ‘dictator to dictator’ to shore up UK energy supplies
Mr Johnson pledged he will raise human rights issues when he meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured) later – days after the Kingdom staged a mass execution of 81 ‘criminals’
In bruising clashes with deputy PM Dominic Raab (right) in the Commons this afternoon, Angela Rayner (left) said ministers seemed to be going ‘cap in hand from one dictator to another’ – adding: ‘Is their only plan to keep on begging?’
In his first stop in Abu Dhabi, Boris Johnson insisted he has raised human rights in the Middle East ‘many, many times’, adding: ‘I’ll raise them all again today.’
In his first stop in Abu Dhabi, Mr Johnson insisted he has raised the two countries’ poor human rights records ‘many, many times’, adding: ‘I’ll raise them all again today.’
But Mr Johnson downplayed his chances of managing to secure greater oil production from the Middle East in an attempt to lessen the severity of the cost of living crisis facing the UK.
He pointed towards Saudi Arabia announcing a £1billion investment in green aviation fuel in Teesside.
‘That’s the kind of thing we want to encourage – doesn’t in any way mean we can’t stick to our principles and raise those issues that we all care about,’ he told broadcasters from under the rapidly warming sun on a terrace at the Emirates Palace hotel.
But he appeared pessimistic that he will be able to open up the spare capacity of the Saudi-led Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) to soften the blow of divesting from Russian fossil fuels.
‘It’s not just a question of looking at the Opec countries and what they can do to increase supply, though that is important. There’s also the issue of Emirati investment in UK wind farms, already huge; what more can they do?’ he said.
‘When we look at the dependency the West in particular has built up on Putin’s hydrocarbons, on Putin’s oil and gas, we can see what a mistake that was because he’s been able to blackmail the West and hold western economies to ransom. We need independence.’
Mr Johnson pledged that his long-awaited energy strategy will come ‘next week’ and include a ‘massive jump forward on renewables, more nuclear, using our own hydrocarbons more effectively’ and sourcing fuel from outside Russia.
After his interview, Mr Johnson met the UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed before heading to Riyadh.
Downing Street’s account of the talks did not state whether the the PM raised human rights concerns.
A No10 spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister set out his deep concerns about the chaos unleashed by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and stressed the importance of working together to improve stability in the global energy market.
‘The leaders welcomed the longstanding partnership between our two countries and discussed opportunities to increase collaboration between the UK and UAE on energy security, green technology, and trade.
‘They also agreed on the need to bolster our strong security, defence and intelligence co-operation in the face of growing global threats, including from the Houthis in Yemen.’
Critics have particularly questioned the move to strengthen ties with Mohammed bin Salman, with the Saudi leader linked to the assassination of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Keir Starmer said ‘going cap in hand from dictator to dictator is not an energy strategy’.
On a visit to Huddersfield, Keir Starmer said ‘going cap in hand from dictator to dictator is not an energy strategy’
Speaking to reporters in Huddersfield, the Labour leader said: ‘The Prime Minister says we can’t rely on Russia, so now he goes to Saudi Arabia.
‘We need to make sure we’ve got security for our energy and that means lessening our imports and not going cap in hand frankly, from dictator to dictator.’
Asked whether he would visit the same region if he was PM, Sir Keir said: ‘I’ve got nothing against measures to try and bring prices down in the short term but Liz Truss was saying only the other day, we’ve got to stop relying on malign actors and that’s why they want to wean us off Russia, but you can’t do that and go cap in hand to Saudi Arabia.
‘What we need is an energy strategy that has security, less imports, rely on renewables here, ramp up onshore and offshore wind, get nuclear going much more quickly and have retrofit like we’re seeing here in Kirklees, so we drive down the need for energy in the first place.’
He added: ‘If there’s one lesson we’ve learned in the last few weeks and months, it’s that we need to stop this reliance, dependency, on oil and gas from overseas, Russia in particular, but you don’t do that by jumping from Russia to Saudi Arabia and recreating the exact same problem.’
Conservative MPs and human rights watchdogs are among those calling on the Prime Minister to question the nations on their track records, with Saudi Arabia executing 81 people convicted of crimes ranging from killings to belonging to militant groups on Saturday.
Mr Johnson arriving in Riyadh today during his visit to the Middle East
Mr Johnson is hoping to enlist the help of Gulf states in weaning the West off oil and gas supplies from Vladimir Putin (pictured)
Prince Mohammed bin Salman has largely been shunned by the West after US intelligence alleged he ordered the murder of Mr Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, something the Saudi ruler denies.
One person who did embrace him, however, was the Russian president, with the prince and Mr Putin sharing a high-five and a laugh at a G20 summit in the month after Mr Khashoggi’s death.
Mr Johnson, who will be deputised at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday by Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, has argued he needs to ‘build the widest possible coalition’ to address Mr Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
The Prime Minister is expected to discuss the importance of allies increasing the diplomatic and economic pressure on the Kremlin while mitigating the global fallout from the war.
Conservative MP Julian Lewis, who chairs Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, called on the Government to ensure that ‘in seeking to lessen our dependence upon one source of oil and gas, we do not end up creating a source dependency on another unreliable and sometimes hostile regime’.
Mr Johnson, who travelled overnight before starting the trip in the UAE on Wednesday morning, is being joined by investment minister Lord Grimstone.
Source: Daily Mail