Saudi King awards Theresa May honour for “meritorious service”

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud stands next to British Prime Minister Theresa May during a reception ceremony in Riyadh

The King of Saudi Arabia has awarded British Prime Minister Theresa May The Order of King Abdulaziz, an honour which recognises those who have given meritorious service to the Kingdom.

May used a two-day trip to the kingdom this week to hold intensive talks with Saudi ministers and executives at the state-owned oil firm Aramco. She ended her visit to Saudi Arabia with a working lunch with King Salman.

But the visit by the Prime Minister was marred with controversy because of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, absolute dictatorship and military action in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition bombing in Yemen, backed by the British government, has left thousands dead, 21 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and three million refugees uprooted from their homes.

However, May defended her trip to Saudi Arabia, saying its ties with the UK were important for security and prosperity. Mrs May said she had raised human rights issues with her Saudi hosts, adding that “if we have the relationship we are able to do that. So rather than just standing on the sidelines and sniping, it’s important to engage, to talk to people, to talk about our interests and to raise, yes, difficult issues when we feel it’s necessary to do so.”

She also defended the drive to strike new trade links, saying the UK had “long-term and historic relationships” with Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The countries, she said, were “important for us in terms of security, they are importance for us in terms of defence and yes, in terms of trade. “But as I said when I came to the Gulf at the end of last year, Gulf security is our security and Gulf prosperity is our prosperity.”

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