14 March 2013
Prince Charles visit smoothing the way for arms sales to repressive Saudi regime
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) condemns the forthcoming official visit of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia because it openly supports a deeply repressive and abusive regime and promotes the already strong military ties between the UK and Saudi Arabia. The visit comes two years after the Saudi Arabian National Guard sent British-made armoured personnel vehicles into Bahrain to support the suppression of protests there.
The first listed of the themes of the visit is the "military links between the Saudi and UK Armed Forces". It is likely that the visit has been added to the Prince's Middle East itinerary in an attempt to persuade the Saudi regime to finalise a contract for 48 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. Prime Minister David Cameron's trip in November 2012 failed to do this, the UK government probably believes the Saudis will be more impressed with a royal.
The UK sells more arms to Saudi Arabia than to any other country. Over the past five years the UK has licensed almost £4 billion worth of weaponry to Saudi Arabia and it wants to sell even more.
CAAT spokesperson, Kaye Stearman, said:
The BAE Eurofighter deal is still under discussion, the Serious Fraud Office is investigating a second Saudi arms deal and a parliamentary committee is undertaking a review of UK-Saudi relations. Added to this is the steady stream of news about human rights abuses and reports of unrest in Saudi Arabia. No wonder the Saudi rulers are feeling concerned – even insecure. The visit of Prince Charles is meant to reassure them that they still have the support of the UK government and that they should sign the Eurofighter Typhoon deal.
For further information contact CAAT's Media Co-ordinator, Kaye Stearman (press(at)caat·org·uk) by email or call 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232.
- Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works to end the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems. In 2012, CAAT was awarded a Right Livelihood Award, the "Alternative Nobel Prize" for its "innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade".
- The visit is part of a nine-day tour of the Middle East, to include Jordan, Qatar and Oman, with three days in Saudi Arabia, visiting Riyadh and Jeddah. The official visit statement says that: The visit to Saudi Arabia will help to strengthen the United Kingdom’s bilateral relations with a key partner in the region, relations which are underpinned by the close personal friendship that exists between Their Royal Highnesses and the Saudi Royal Family. The themes of the visit include military links between the Saudi and UK Armed Forces, opportunities for women in Saudi society, education, faith, and commercial partnerships. While in Riyadh, Their Royal Highnesses will meet members of the Saudi parliament, known as the Majlis Ash-Shura, including the institution’s recently appointed first women members. The programme in Jeddah will include a visit to the headquarters of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
- In Saudi Arabia government and royalty are one and the same, and they value links with UK royalty. For ten years Prince Andrew acted as a Special Representative for Trade, making several trips to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. This visit by his elder brother, made at the request of the UK government, must be seen as a positive endorsement of government policy.
- On 14 March 2011 Saudi Arabia sent scores of UK-made armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain to aid the government's bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The armoured vehicles, marketed as Tacticas, were manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems Division in Newcastle Upon Tyne with final assembly taking place in Belgium.
- CAAT's arms export app reveals details of licences for military and dual-use equipment licensed to Saudi Arabia between January 2008 and September 2012. In addition to £3.4 billion worth of military aircraft, the UK has exported significant amounts of other military equipment, including "grenades, bombs, missiles and countermeasures", small arms and ammunition, armoured vehicles and tanks, telecommunications and "information security", sensors and lasers, and other electronic equipment.
- There are extensive military links between the UK and Saudi Arabia, especially through the Ministry of Defence Saudi Armed Forces Project (MODSAP) and the Saudi Arabian National Guard Communications Project (SANGCOM). About 270 UK Ministry of Defence civil servants and military personnel work in the UK and Saudi Arabia to support the contracts through the MODSAP and SANGCOM. They are paid for by the Saudi Arabian Government.
- In April 2012, BAE Systems signed a contract to build 48 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft in the UK for the Saudi Arabian Air Force but changes to the price of the deal have yet to be agreed.
- Both BAE Systems and GPT, a UK subsidiary of EADS, have been the subject of Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigations with regards to corruption. In August 2012 the SFO announced it was investigating allegations of corruption regarding Saudi Arabia and GPT with regard to the SANGCOM project where two former employees said that payments totalling £14.5 million have been made by GPT to two Cayman Islands-registered companies and that these payments were irregular as no actual work was done. Meanwhile, a Sunday Times investigation revealed that BAE's former chairman acquired two luxury properties from offshore companies linked to a Saudi military deal.
- The Foreign Affairs Committee is currently considering written and oral evidence from organisations and individuals on UK trade and defence relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. In October 2012, Saudi officials said that the country was "insulted" by the inquiry and were now "re-evaluating their country's historic relations with Britain".