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James Cleverly: It's "Ridiculously Distasteful" To Compare Russia With Saudi Arabia

Boris Johnson is welcomed by Mohammed bin Salman Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia ahead of a meeting at the Royal Court in Riyadh (Photo: Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images)
Boris Johnson is welcomed by Mohammed bin Salman Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia ahead of a meeting at the Royal Court in Riyadh (Photo: Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images)

Attempts by Labour to compare Saudi Arabia to Russia are “ridiculously distasteful”, according to Foreign Office minister James Cleverly.

Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of going from “dictator to dictator” after the prime minister travelled to Riyadh as part of his attempts to weaken the world’s reliance on Russian oil and gas.

However, the PM has been accused of cosying up to a regime with a terrible human rights record and which executive 81 people at the weekend.

Labour leader Starmer said: “Obviously there’s a real energy crisis in terms of the cost at the moment, so anything that brings the cost down now is a step in the right direction, whatever it is. But going cap in hand from dictator to dictator is not an energy strategy.”

Asked about the criticism on BBC Breakfast, Cleverly said: “Equating any country with the behaviour of Vladimir Putin is ridiculously distasteful.

“We need to recognise that Saudi is an incredibly influential country in the region, it is a significant oil and gas producer, and it is absolutely right that the Prime Minister seeks to alleviate some of the pressure that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has put on oil and gas prices – absolutely the right thing to do.

“We always – I have done this when I was minister for the Middle East – raised concerns about human rights or the death penalty when we talk to the Saudis.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said the prime minister had “raised the UK’s concerns about ongoing human rights issues” in Saudi Arabia in talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s ruler.

The spokesperson added: “He set out the UK’s view that we are facing a fundamentally changed world order following Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, which requires countries to work together to improve energy security and reduce reliance on Russian hydrocarbons.

“The Prime Minister and Crown Prince agreed to collaborate to maintain stability in the energy market and continue the transition to renewable and clean technology.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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