London: UK and Saudi Arabia signed special defence cooperation agreement worth $2 billion. With this agreement being claimed the biggest till date, Saudi Arabia will be purchasing 48 ‘Typhoon’ fighter jets from Britain. The agreement has created repercussions in Britain and the opposition has criticised the agreement of being an embarrassment for Britain.
Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman visited Britain last week. On the last day of his three-day visit, Crown Prince Mohammed met with British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and signed this agreement for $2 billion. All details about the defence deal are not yet available. Nevertheless, the inclusion of an agreement with the ‘BAE’ aircraft manufacturing company in Britain has been announced to be a part of this agreement as well.
According to the information published by the ‘BAE’ systems, Saudi has signed an agreement for the purchase of 48 Typhoon fighter jets. This agreement will create employment for approximately 2000 people, claimed ‘BAE’ systems. The British defence and security officials from concerned departments have welcomed the agreement. The British officials have expressed confidence that this will result in stronger ties between Britain and Saudi.
Saudi already has 72 Typhoon jets, amounting to 4 full squadrons equipped with these jets. Britain had signed an agreement for this in 2007 with Saudi. This agreement was completed when the last few jets were delivered last year. Saudi had demanded for the purchase of more Typhoon jets from Britain. However, the opposition and the human rights organisations in Britain, had objected to having a defence cooperation with Saudi.
Human rights organisations have accused the Saudi jets of attacking the Yemeni people along with the Houthi rebels. Criticising Saudi of having violated the war rules, the opposition and media in Britain have opposed any defence cooperation with Saudi. Severe differences have been seen in the British Parliament over this issue in the last few years.
The differences were echoed during the visit of Saudi’s ‘Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’. The opposition strongly protested against the Saudi Crown Prince’s Britain visit. The British opposition criticised that Saudi was responsible for the Yemen conflict. At the same time, Saudi and its Arab allies had protested against the boycott on Qatar. Prime Minister Theresa May avoided making any statement on the arguments and said that importance would be given to cooperation with Saudi. However, after the agreement between the ‘BAE’ Systems and Saudi, the opponents of Prime Minister May have sharpened their criticism.
The decision to sell ‘Typhoon’ jets to Saudi is embarrassing. Britain had an image of the protector of human rights at the international level. This British image has been tarnished with the decision to supply fighter jets to Saudi, who has been responsible for human rights violations in Yemen, criticised the opposition.
Meanwhile, the Saudi media has claimed that this deal would improve Saudi’s air safety. It is also said that the first foreign trip of the ‘Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’ was successful, against the backdrop of the anti-corruption campaign in Saudi.