The killing of Jamal Khashoggi and Yemen’s war have hurt Saudi Arabia’s reputation, the chairman of BAE Systems told Sky News, adding Britain as a “critical friend” could help Riyadh refocus on the development push it was making before those crises emerged.
The death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, sparked global outrage and mushroomed into a crisis for the world’s top oil exporter and strategic ally of the West.
It also raised questions about Western business activity in the kingdom where BAE, Britain’s biggest defence company, and its partners are currently engaged in a multi-billion pound deal to sell Typhoon fighter planes.
“Saudi Arabia was a country that was developing very well under new leadership – a sense of liberalisation, opening up the country, opening up to opportunities for women. All these things were being very well received,” Chairman Roger Carr told Sky News.
“Two issues damaged the position of Saudi Arabia in eyes of the world – the Khashoggi affair is one of them and also the war in Yemen.”
“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,” he said, adding:
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.
Riyadh is pursuing a plan to diversify the Arab world’s largest economy away from reliance on crude revenues, in part by attracting increasing amounts of foreign investment.
Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries, is locked in a nearly four-year-old war that pits Iran-aligned Houthi rebels against the government backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the West. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
On Yemen, Carr said: “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.”