London: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is set begin a three-day visit to the UK on Wednesday, with the ruling Conservative Party and royal family rolling out the red carpet for him.
There were protests planned during the Crown Prince’s visit due to his country’s role in the war in Yemen, the BBC reported. Opposition politicians and rights groups called on British Prime Minister Theresa May to use the trip to challenge the kingdom’s record on human rights.
The trip is the Crown Prince’s first foreign tour as heir to the Saudi throne and is seen as his chance to project the kingdom as a “reforming youthful society determined to take up its status as a major G20 economic power”.
He will hold talks with May and have lunch with the Queen and dinner with Prince Charles and Prince William.
A coalition of UK human rights groups were planning to demonstrate against the visit outside Downing Street, calling out rights abuses in the kingdom, as well as the UK government’s arms sales and support for Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen which has killed thousands.
Despite the demonstrations, however, British officials said they hoped to capitalise on the Saudi economy’s opening up.
Saudi efforts to diversify the economy away from oil revenues will provide new opportunities for British firms in health, technology, entertainment, sport and education, the Guardian reported.
Both Saudi and UK officials were expecting handshakes on bilateral contracts worth more than $100 million over 10 years.
The Crown Prince is credited with kick-starting domestic reforms in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom such as the upcoming lifting of the ban on women driving and the re-opening of commercial cinemas after 35 years as well as tackling corruption within the government and the ruling Al Saud family.