Britain has raised its concerns about human rights in Saudi Arabia with authorities there following the execution of 47 men including a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric, a Foreign Office minister said on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia’s execution of Nimr al-Nimr has angered Shi’ites across the Middle East and caused a major diplomatic row between mainly Shi’ite Iran and Saudi Arabia’s conservative Sunni monarchy.
“The UK’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia does not mean that we shy away from raising legitimate human rights concerns,” Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Foreign Office, Tobias Ellwood, told parliament.
“We make this point very clearly in public and in private. The Saudi authorities are well aware of our views, and I have raised them most recently myself with the Saudi authorities yesterday following the execution of 47 people over the weekend.”
Ellwood said escalating tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, one of Britain’s closest military allies in the Middle East with which it does billions of dollars worth of business every year, were “deeply concerning”.
The Times newspaper reported on Tuesday that British Prime Minister David Cameron had delayed a trip to Saudi Arabia. A spokeswoman for Cameron would not confirm that a trip had been planned or delayed due to Nimr’s execution.