RIYADH: Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf has warned of "potentially serious repercussions" of a breakdown in relations with Britain, which no longer reciprocates on issues with similar trust and respect.
In an article published in British daily "The Daily Telegraph" Monday, Prince Mohammed raised several pertinacious questions that need to be addressed by the two countries.
In the article, he said: “It should be worrying to all those who do not want to see potentially serious repercussions that could damage the mutually beneficial strategic partnership that our two countries have so long enjoyed."
The comments by Prince Mohammed, who has been Saudi ambassador to UK for the last 10 years, come after London canceled a prison contract in what was widely seen as a reaction to the Shariah laws being applied to British prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
He continued: "One recent example of this mutual respect being breached was when Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, claimed that he had convinced Prime Minister David Cameron to cancel the prison consultancy contract with Saudi Arabia worth £5.9 million. Over the past few weeks, there has been an alarming change in the way Saudi Arabia is discussed in Britain."
The envoy said that his country had "always had to deal with a lack of understanding and misconceptions", but just as his people respected "the local traditions, customs, laws and religion of Britain, we expect Britain to grant us this same respect".
Asked for her reaction to the article, British Embassy spokeswoman Nicola Woodget, said: "We don’t have comment for you on this issue … Sorry." But, Hamoud F. Sofi, professor of political science at King Saud University, expressed his disappointment over the UK's position on key issues including the Shariah rule in the Kingdom.
Sofi said several foreign countries and their politicians are unaware of the sensitivities of Shariah laws in Saudi Arabia."
A few other Saudi and British political analysts, including Saleh Al-Kathlan, when contacted by Arab News, preferred to remain silent. Some of them, however, preferring anonymity, wished for "better and cordial" ties between the two countries.
Prince Mohammed wrote: "The importance of Saudi Arabia to the UK and the Middle East’s security, as well as its vital role in the larger Arab world as the epicenter of Islam, seems to be of little concern to those who have fomented this change."
Saudi Arabia is a sovereign state, said the envoy, adding that the Kingdom is led by our rulers alone, and our rulers are led by Islam alone.
“Our justice system is based on Shariah law and implemented by our independent judiciary,” said the article. He wrote that Saudi Arabia and the UK are fortunate to have forged such a strong alliance — one that dates back to before the foundation of the Kingdom in 1932.
The diplomat said the Kingdom’s contribution to Britain’s security and economy provides the foundations on which the bilateral relations between our two countries are built, allowing trade, cultural exchanges and military cooperation to flourish. “Saudi Arabia ultimately provides over 50,000 British families in the UK and the Kingdom with livelihoods, thanks to commercial contracts worth tens of billions of pounds,” he noted.
He wrote that Saudis have an estimated £90 billion in private business investments in the UK. “But still, there are elements targeting to hamper the bilateral cordial relations. If the extensive trade links between the two countries are going to be subordinate to certain political ideologies, then this vital commercial exchange is going to be at risk,” he warned.
“We want this relationship to continue but we will not be lectured to by anyone,” the prince clarified.
The Kingdom remains an invaluable source of intelligence on terror activities. To this end, Prince Mohammed said the information from Saudi intelligence in 2010 resulted in a major counter-terrorism success by scuttling an Al-Qaeda attempt to blow up a cargo airliner over Britain.
“There have also been other unfounded allegations made against the Kingdom,” said the envoy, referring to the reports in British media that it was a royal convoy that caused the Mina stampede. “This is untrue,” stressed the prince.
He expressed his disappointment over intense criticism of the Kingdom’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. “Yet this is unfair, as it fails to acknowledge that Saudi Arabia has taken in over 2.5 million displaced Syrians.”
He, however, commended the remarks made by Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond at the Conservative Party conference, who said that the “Gulf security is UK security.” The prince wrote: “But to further our shared strategic interests in the years ahead as we confront a variety of threats, it is crucial that Saudi Arabia be treated with the respect it has unwaveringly afforded the UK.”
The Daily Telegraph’s circulation exceeds half a million mark.