Saudi Arabia said it was “insulted” by the UK government’s decision to review its relations with the Gulf kingdom, the BBC reported, with Saudi officials retaliating by saying Riyadh was now “re-evaluating” its own trade and diplomatic ties with the UK.
Saudi officials told the BBC they were “insulted” by an announcement last month by the UK's Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) that it was to review its relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in light of developments during the Arab Spring.
In response, Saudi officials said the kingdom was now "re-evaluating their country's historic relations with Britain" and that "all options will be looked at".
The FAC report will look at how the UK balances its trade, security, counter-terrorism and human rights obligations in the Gulf and follows a report in July which urged the London government to apply more cautious judgments on the export of arms to nations such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
MPs said in the new report that the measures were needed to ensure that arms were not used for internal repression.
Both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were named on a list of "countries of concern" drawn up by the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) which has scrutinised in unprecedented detail the government’s arms exports controls.
It showed that the UK has 97 current UK arms export licences to Bahrain and 288 to Saudi Arabia. Since the Arab Spring, British authorities have had to revoke 158 arms export licences to countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the report said.
The UK has strong trade links with Saudi Arabia, including a recent US$2.5bn deal signed in May with the UK Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems, but Saudi officials said the growing diplomatic row was unlikely to see it cancelling any ongoing trade deals.
Trade between the two countries amounted to nearly US$6.5bn last year and there are around 200 UK-Saudi trade agreements in place, worth more than US$17.5bn.
In a statement to the BBC, a Foreign Office spokesman said the UK government had the "right to carry out inquiries” but reiterated that “Saudi Arabia is a key strategic partner in the region and one of the closest friends and allies".