British prime minister Boris Johnson is set to embark on a visit to Saudi Arabia this week to lobby for action to keep oil prices in check amid a growing crisis in the global energy market.
The British premier’s visit is reportedly aimed at lobbying Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to increase the country’s oil output as energy sanctions on Russia have begun to hurt the West.
Confirming Sunday’s report in The Times on Sunday, government minister Michael Gove said that Johnson was set to visit Riyadh this week in order to lobby the Saudi crown prince to help offset the impact of the Ukraine-linked sanctions.
UK government and the US administration of Joe Biden announced earlier last week that they will no longer import any energy resources from Russia.
“We have to rely on oil from a number of countries, many of whose human rights record we don't approve of,” Gove told Sky News.
Johnson’s decision to meet the Saudi crown prince comes on the heels of mass executions by the Saudi government earlier this week, which have sparked anger and outrage across the world.
The kingdom executed 81 prisoners in a single day over so-called ‘terror-related offenses,’ in what rights groups have dubbed the largest mass execution in recent memory.
“Saudi Arabia is a security partner of the United Kingdom. I think that there are human rights concerns. We're clear about those,” Gove said.
“But we also recognize that at a time when the world is in a fragile situation, diplomacy alongside clarity on human rights is important,” he added.
Rights group Amnesty International UK has criticized the PM’s proposed visit to the Arab country, saying he should instead challenge the crown prince over the mass executions and a 10-year travel ban slapped on blogging rights activist Raif Badawi.
Amnesty UK rights adviser Polly Truscott stressed that “Saudi Arabia mustn't be allowed a free pass over the civilians being killed by Saudi coalition airstrikes in Yemen.”
“Whether or not the PM makes it to Riyadh this week, the key point is that Saudi oil shouldn't be allowed to buy the world's silence over Saudi Arabia's terrible human rights record,” she told AFP.
The British authorities have started to worry as fuel prices have seen a staggering rise across the country after the British government confirmed phase-out oil imports from Russian during the course of the current year.
After Saudi Arabia, Russia is the world’s largest producer of oil. It ranks first in the world for gas production.