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BAE boss: UK should be ‘critical friend’ to Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi murder | World News

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Britain should be a “critical friend” to Saudi Arabia, according to the boss of Europe’s biggest defence company.

BAE Systems is the mainstay of the British defence industry. The company is involved in the manufacture of fighter aircraft, naval ships and weaponry, much of which is exported around the world. It recently signed a multi-billion pound contract with the Australian navy.

However, it is the company’s links to Saudi Arabia that have attracted much recent attention. Saudi Arabia is, by far, the biggest export market for the UK defence industry. Only America sells more weapons to the nation.

Many of those deals have involved BAE, including the sale of 48 Typhoon jets to the kingdom last year. They have been criticised frequently by human rights campaigners, criticism that intensified after the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.

A view of the BAE Systems yard in Govan in Glasgow, Scotland
Image:
BAE Systems yard in Govan in Glasgow, Scotland

Now, for the first time, the company’s Chairman, Sir Roger Carr, has responded to the murder, telling Sky News that the UK needs to help the development of Saudi Arabia by being “a critical friend”.

He said: “Saudi Arabia was a country that was developing very well under new leadership – a sense of liberalisation, opening up the country, opening up to to opportunities for women. All these things were being very well received.

“Two issues damaged the position of Saudi Arabia in eyes of world – the Khashoggi affair is one of them and also the war in Yemen.

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Sir Roger Carr says the UK needs to help the development of Saudi Arabia

“On Khashoggi, we have seen that politicians have admonished Saudi Arabia. Politicians didn’t believe the way that was done and handled was appropriate or acceptable and that’s exactly right.

“On Yemen – our involvement with Saudi Arabia is helping us to take them to a point where a war that is, for them, a defensive war is something that they all recognise as something that needs to be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible.”

He went on: “What we want to see, by being a consistent and critical friend, is that Saudi Arabia, needs to return to the pathway it was on and develop in the way it was.

“We need to work with them as a major partner politically and from security point of view and an intelligence point of view. These are very important things, and encouraging them in the way to behave is that of a critical friend.”

Sir Roger described himself as “a staunch remainer”, but said that he now had a vision of a post-Brexit Britain that “honoured the will of the people but retain the building blocks that allow us to operate globally”.

He said that the trading relationship with Europe “remains a vital plank of or our economic prosperity so preservation of that relationship is something I absolutely believe in”, adding that a no-deal Brexit would be “very damaging for this country”.

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