What to expect from Mohammed bin Salman’s UK visit

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The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, is in Egypt as he embarks on his first international tour since becoming heir apparent last year.

The kingdom’s most influential figure, Prince Mohammed is due to discuss trade, the conflict in Yemen, and regional rival Iran during a series of talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The Arab royal’s trip to Cairo comes ahead of a three-day state visit to the UK, followed by a visit to the US.

The diplomatic offensive is aimed at courting investors and comes after “a tumultuous period that saw a major military shake-up and an anti-corruption purge”, says Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya.

Prince Mohammed and his entourage will get the red-carpet treatment when they land in London on Wednesday for his first official meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May.

Who will he meet with in London?

His full schedule has not been made public, but the prince is expected to join the Queen for dinner at Windsor Castle, before heading to No. 10 for a meeting with the PM.

The talks are aimed at strengthening defence, security and economic ties between the UK and Saudi Arabia, but “given how little we know about him and how important our relations with Saudi Arabia are held to be, it is fair to say that breaths are being held on both sides”, The Times reports.

Demonstrations are set to take place outside Downing Street, with campaigners calling on May to challenge Prince Mohammed on human rights abuses and to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, accuses May of “putting the interests of arms dealers above the rights of Yemeni people” who are being attacked by Saudi warplanes.

“The crown prince should never have been invited to Downing Street: he leads a regime with an appalling human rights record and has overseen the destruction of Yemen,” Smith told Sky News.

What exactly is on the agenda?

As a senior member of Britain’s most important trading partner in the Middle East, Prince Mohammed “arrives with a twin agenda: as head of a lucrative trade mission, and as a leader looking for validation after a chequered debut year in foreign affairs”, according to The Guardian.

The Saudi Committee for International Trade (CIT) says his main objectives will be drumming up business and cementing investment opportunities.

The prince “will look for investments in the UK, and, by return, present opportunities for UK-based investors to profit from Saudi’s economic growth”, writes CIT secretary general Omar Bahlaiwa in an article for City A.M.

May, meanwhile, says her priorities include tackling terrorism; the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen; and other regional issues such as Iraq and Syria.

The PM has defended her decision to host the crown prince by pointing to the social reforms under way in Saudi Arabia, such as the recent lifting of the ban on female drivers.

“Saudi Arabia is changing,” she said. 



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