British Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have agreed to meet “at the earliest opportunity” to discuss ways to boost economic and security ties between the two countries.
The two leaders spoke by phone on Thursday, and Sunak said they had a “constructive conversation” about a range of issues, including energy, investment, and defense.
“We agreed to work together to deepen our cooperation in these areas and to meet in person at the earliest opportunity,” Sunak said in a statement.
The meeting between Sunak and the Saudi crown prince is likely to be seen as a sign of the UK’s growing interest in Saudi Arabia, as the country seeks to diversify its energy supplies and strengthen its security ties in the Middle East.
The UK is currently in the process of phasing out its reliance on Russian oil and gas, and Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest oil producers. The two countries have also been discussing ways to strengthen their defense cooperation, as the UK seeks to counter the growing threat from Iran.
The meeting between Sunak and the Saudi crown prince is also likely to be controversial, as the latter has been accused of human rights abuses, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. However, the UK government has said that it is committed to maintaining a “constructive relationship” with Saudi Arabia, despite these concerns.
The date and location of the meeting between Sunak and the Saudi crown prince have not yet been announced.
In addition to the economic and security issues discussed, the two leaders are also likely to discuss the ongoing war in Yemen, in which Saudi Arabia is a leading participant. The UK has been providing military support to Saudi Arabia in the war, but there have been growing calls for the government to end this support.
The meeting between Sunak and the Saudi crown prince is a significant development in the UK’s relations with Saudi Arabia. It remains to be seen what concrete outcomes the meeting will produce, but it is clear that the two countries are keen to strengthen their ties.