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    Prime Minister visits Saudi Arabia in effort to boost future trade deals with the Middle East

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    The Prime Minister has announced that she is prepared to agree a new role for the UK in helping Saudi Arabia to reform its Ministry of Defence and review its military capabilities, after meeting yesterday with King Salman.

    Regular strategic dialogues between the two nations will also be established to boost co-operation on security and intelligence. Britain has offered to support “Saudi Vision 2030”, an economic blueprint for the nation announced last April that aims to reduce its reliance on oil and diversify its economy. The strengthened partnership is part of the Prime Minister’s aim to seek closer alliances with nations outside the EU as she navigates Brexit. The Chancellor, International Trade Secretary and Foreign Secretary are all due to visit the country in the coming months. Stephen Lovegrove, permanent secretary to the Ministry of Defence, will visit within weeks to aid discussions on defence strategy. Criticized for overlooking Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, the Prime Minister defended Britain’s links to the Gulf State, saying: “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.” Meanwhile, Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, accused Mrs. May of “putting profit before principle and cosying up to Saudi Arabia”. He said: “The government seem happy to look the other way and ignore consistent and egregious abuses of human rights in the kingdom and beyond in Yemen.”

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