|David Cameron receives decoration from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia|
David Cameron has been questioned repeatedly on the UK’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia by Channel 4 News.
Asked by Jon Snow whether he had interceded with the Saudis over the planned execution of the Shia activist Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, Cameron admitted he himself had not raised the issue directly but the foreign secretary and the embassy had.
He did however add: “I will look to see if there is an opportunity for me to raise it as well.”
The teenager was arrested after taking part in Arab Spring protests in 2012, and has been sentenced to death by beheading, followed by crucifixion.
In his first conference speech as Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn urged Cameron to personally intervene in the case, and the prime minister subsequently said his message to the Saudi authorities would be: “Don’t do it.”
Snow continued to press Cameron on the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia following the exposure of a secret deal, initiated by the UK, to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council.
Snow said: “This sounds a bit squalid for one of the most human rights abusing regimes on earth.”
Cameron responded that he “completely disagreed with them about their punishment routines, about the death penalty, about all those issues”.
Snow continued to press him, asking three times why the deal was done. Cameron’s answer was that he totally opposed the Saudis in “that area”. Snow responded by once again asking why the government had done the deal.
Cameron simply said he had answered the question but this was dismissed by Snow. The prime minister then said: “We have a relationship with Saudi Arabia and if you want to know why I’ll tell you why.
“It’s because we receive from them important intelligence and security information that keeps us safe. The reason we have the relationship is our own national security.
“There was one occasion since I’ve been prime minister where a bomb that would have potentially blown up over Britain was stopped because of intelligence we got from Saudi Arabia.
“Of course it would be easier for me to say: ‘I’m not having anything to do with these people, it’s all terribly difficult etcetera etcetera.’ For me, Britain’s national security and our people’s security comes first.”
Source: The Guardian, Nicola Slawson, October 6, 2015