Boris Johnson will push Saudi regime to denounce Ukraine invasion

The Prime Minister is set to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss oil and gas production.

15 March 2022

Boris Johnson will press Saudi Arabia to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during a visit to the kingdom for talks over oil and gas, a Foreign Office minister has said.

The Prime Minister is due to travel to Saudi to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the hope the Gulf state can increase its production of fuel supplies to make up for reduced reliance on Russia.

But James Cleverly said he does not know whether the country has yet condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Newcastle United takeover
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is to hold talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Victoria Jones/PA)

The minister told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that “they voted in the same way as us at the United Nations General Assembly” but he has been “very much concentrating, obviously, on the situation in Ukraine” so is not aware of the kingdom’s position.

He said it will be something Mr Johnson “brings up when he visits”.

Mr Cleverly also suggested the need to move away from a reliance on Russia means the Prime Minister has to hold the talks despite concerns over human rights abuses and the use of the death penalty.

“The UK’s position on the death penalty is long-standing and principled – we oppose the death penalty on principle, we have communicated that to Saudi Arabia,” he told Times Radio.

“I had conversations along these lines when I was the minister for the Middle East and North Africa in the Foreign Office, we communicate that with all countries that have the death penalty.

“Ultimately, of course, our situation with regard to energy generation is that the Prime Minister is right to seek alternatives so that we do not have to rely on Russian oil and gas and we choke off the finances which are currently being used to wage war against Ukraine. It’s absolutely the right thing to do.”

Mr Cleverly said the UK is also urging China to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions.

US officials have said they have determined that China has signalled to Russia that it would be willing to provide both military support for the campaign in Ukraine and financial backing to help stave off the impact of severe sanctions imposed by the West.

Mr Cleverly told Sky News: “What we’re saying to all countries is that they should denounce this unprovoked illegal attack into Ukraine by Russia.

“They should not in any way be supporting Russia, and we urge countries to join the UK and the international community in condemning and sanctioning Russia to choke off the finances which are funding Putin’s war effort.

“There is no justification at all for this attack, and we urge China and all countries around the world to denounce it and absolutely not to support it.”

Mr Cleverly said the UK has not had any statements from China denouncing the invasion.

James Cleverly
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the UK has not had any statements from China denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said that if China wants to be a “global player”, it “needs to play its part in making the world safer”.

“It needs to stand up to Russian aggression,” she told Sky News.

Ahead of his visit to Saudi Arabia, in an article for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said Western leaders had made a “terrible mistake” by letting Mr Putin “get away with” annexing Crimea in 2014 and subsequently becoming “more dependent” on Russian power sources.

He said the “addiction” to Russian fuel had “emboldened” Mr Putin to bomb civilians during his invasion of Ukraine, while at the same time profiting from soaring global oil and gas prices.

“We cannot go on like this. The world cannot be subject to this continuous blackmail,” said Mr Johnson, whose administration has already announced its plan to phase out importing Russian oil by the end of the year.

“As long as the West is economically dependent on Putin, he will do all he can to exploit that dependence.

“And that is why that dependence must – and will – now end.”

Stating that Russia produces “virtually nothing else” that the “rest of the world wants to buy”, Mr Johnson argued: “If the world can end its dependence on Russian oil and gas, we can starve him of cash, destroy his strategy and cut him down to size.”

Offering a glimpse of what could be in his British Energy Security Strategy, which is due to be published this month, he said there is a need to press ahead with investment in renewables, including expanding the number of UK offshore wind farms and creating more solar power.

He also said there needs to be a “series of big new bets” on nuclear power to make sure the UK’s energy supply is “no longer at the mercy of bullies like Putin”.

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