British PM meets with Saudi king after UAE defence deal

David Cameron in Gulf to boost defence and commercial ties in wake of Arab Spring

Saudi Emir of Mecca, Prince Khalid bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz (R) welcomes British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) as he arrives in Jeddah on November 6, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Emir of Mecca, Prince Khalid bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz (R) welcomes British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) as he arrives in Jeddah on November 6, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister David Cameron met with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and other top Saudi officials in Jeddah on Tuesday following a two-day visit to the UAE, where he secured a defence partnership with the Gulf state.

The two leaders discussed “existing relations and cooperation between the two countries and prospects of boosting cooperation in various fields,” state news agency SPA reported.

The UK and the UAE on Tuesday said they had agreed on a range of defence and bilateral partnerships.

“We will work together to… deepen our defence ties by; continuing the development of our joint plans for the security of the UAE and wider Gulf region; increasing our joint exercises and training; and by investing in the British military presence in the UAE,” Downing Street said in a statement.

The two countries also agreed to “establish a defence industrial partnership that involves close collaboration around Typhoon and a number of new technologies,” the statement added.

Cameron arrived in the UAE on Monday as part of a three-day diplomacy tour intended to persuade regional powers to buy more than 100 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets. The deals are said to be valued at GBP£6bn (US$9.6bn) to Britain.

Gulf countries are expected to boost defence procurement further amid increasing tensions with Iran over its nuclear programme and Syria, said Theodore Karasik, director of research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

“I think you are going to see a new round of arms sales to the region. Part of this is tied to the Syrian and Iranian scenarios and also the possibility to Saudi, because of perceptions of the Syrian effect on Jordan,” he said.

Cameron’s trip comes amid strained relations between the two regions following Britain’s support for revolutions that toppled Arab leaders and concern in the Gulf that it is too welcoming of the Islamists that replaced them.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have also been criticised by Western countries for alleged human rights abuses in the wake of the Arab Spring.

BP during the summer was unexpectedly excluded from bidding for the renewal of a 1.4m barrel-a-day concession in Abu Dhabi. UAE officials in July confirmed that BP – one of four western multinationals operating the 75-year concession – did not receive a letter inviting them to bid.

Gulf officials have also hinted that Britain may lose out on other major contracts in the future and award lucrative deals to Asian companies if the UK continues to support calls for reform.

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