Boris Johnson won’t say if he struck an oil deal on Saudi Arabia trip – and insists human rights talks will remain ‘private’ | Political news

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Boris Johnson declined to say whether his trip to Saudi Arabia would lead to an increase in the kingdom’s oil production – as he insisted his discussions of his human rights record would be ‘kept private’.

The Prime Minister visited the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday as he continues his efforts to reduce Western dependence on Russian oil and gas after Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine.

Mr Johnson spoke out against the West’s ‘reliance’ on Russian energy and called on his allies to help deliver another financial blow to Mr Putin’s regime by reducing their consumption of Kremlin-controlled supplies .

A spike in oil and gas prices has also heightened concerns about a UK cost of living crisis.

However, in seeking to persuade Middle Eastern countries to increase their own energy production as the West seeks to distance itself from Moscow, Mr Johnson has been accused of moving from an oppressive regime to one of others with their own human rights records.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman receives British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 16, 2022. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PHOTO WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Picture:
The prime minister and Mohammed bin Salman spoke for about an hour and 45 minutes
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Speaking on Wednesday evening in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, Mr Johnson hesitated whether his talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – which lasted around an hour and 45 minutes – had resulted in progress on the kingdom increasing its own oil production.

“We talked about everything you expect, so I talked about human rights, but we also talked about what we can do to stabilize oil prices, fight inflation, help consumers , helping people at the gas pump, at the gas pump,” he said.

“A lot of agreement that it is important to avoid inflation, to avoid bad economic consequences, agreement that we have to work together to bring peace to Ukraine.

“I thanked the Saudis for what they are doing – they joined the UN resolution to condemn what Russia has done. Both agreed that we must see an end to Putin’s war. “

After his “productive conversation” with the Crown Prince, the Prime Minister added that there was “an interest for Saudi Arabia – for all oil producing and exporting countries – to ensure that the global economy does not not be damaged by the current peaks, which we don’t have the kind of inflation we saw in the 1970s, we don’t see stagflation”.

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Where will the UK get its energy?

But, when asked if that meant an agreement had been reached on oil production, Mr Johnson replied: “I think you have to talk to the Saudis about it, but I think there was a …there was an understanding of the need to ensure stability in world oil and gas markets and the need to avoid damaging price spikes.

“And a strong global economy, a strong UK economy, which we have, continuing with a strong UK economy, is also in the interest of oil-producing countries.”

The prime minister had faced calls to cancel his trip to Saudi Arabia following the recent mass execution of 81 men in a single day.

The Saudi crown prince has also been largely shunned by Westerners since the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom he is accused of having ordered.

Just over three years ago Mr Johnson himself called Mr Khashoggi’s murder a ‘barbaric act’ and suggested the Saudi state had ‘copied Vladimir Putin’s playbook’ with “the ostentatious horror of this murder”.

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However, the prime minister declined to reveal what he discussed about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record during his talks with the kingdom’s crown prince on Wednesday.

“I always raise human rights issues, as British prime ministers before me have done on many occasions,” he said.

“It’s better if the details of those conversations are kept private, they’re more effective that way.

“But I think you can also see that despite this news that you referred to today, things are changing in Saudi Arabia, we want to see them continue to change.

“And that’s why we see value in engaging with Saudi Arabia and why we see value in partnering.”

Mr Johnson also declined to say whether he was expressing his displeasure with recent events in Saudi Arabia, adding: ‘I have expressed the long-standing view of the British Government, as you would expect.

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