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By Christina Georgaki
Press releases

Liz Truss Says UK Must Make “Difficult Decisions” Over Challenging Human Rights Abuses In Gulf States


3 min read

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has defended the government’s failure to challenge human rights abuses during ongoing trade negotiations with Gulf States.

The United Kingdom government has faced repeated criticism over its relationship with Gulf states where there are multiple concerns over human rights abuses. 

Truss told MPs on Tuesday that “difficult decisions” had to be made as the country sought “alternative energy sources” in order to end reliance on Russian oil and gas.

The UK recently opened talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE.

Appearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee, Truss was unable to name an occasion on which she has challenged these states over human rights abuses.

But she defended the government’s position, claiming that the world is not “perfect” and that the GCC were “allies” of the UK.

Asked whether she believed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, she repeated her claim that the Gulf states were UK allies.

"What I would say is that Saudi Arabia is an important partner of the United Kingdom,” she told MPs.

"What I am focused on is making sure we are dealing with the major threats to the world. The number one threat we are dealing with at the moment is the threat from Russia.

"In order to do that, we need to make sure we have alternative energy sources.

She continued: "We are not dealing with a perfect world. We are dealing in a world where we have to make difficult decisions and I think it is right that we build that closer trading relationship with the Gulf States.”

The foreign secretary was also challenged on when she had personally raised concerns over human rights abuses during meetings with Gulf State leaders.

"I will have to come back to the committee on precise timing of that,” she responded, before promising to write to the committee with details.

Discussing the broader aims of the UK’s aid commitments, Truss went on to suggest that the focus of aid spending had moved from alleviating poverty to “promoting freedom and democracy around the world” and challenging the expansion of China.

She said that one of her concerns over development spending in the past has been whether it is "contributing to our overall objectives of promoting freedom and democracy around the world and are we looking at it in a way that challenges some of the geo-political efforts by malign actors?"

"We need to be, of course, focused on alleviating humanitarian suffering, but we also need to look at the future geo-politics,” she added.

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