The heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, is acting as a "de facto high-level salesman for British arms exports" and is "bolstering autocratic Gulf regimes," claims a new report by Declassified UK. The investigative journalism website has released two reports on the relationship between the House of Windsor and Arab royalty. It found that over the past decade, Charles alone has had meetings with ruling families in the Middle East 95 times, while in total members of Britain's royal family have met with counterparts in the region's monarchies on 217 occasions.
Charles' diplomatic trips to the region are made at the request of the Foreign Office. He has helped to cement controversial alliances with undemocratic regimes and promoted £14.5 billion worth of arms exports in the past decade, the new report reveals.
The real purpose of these visits is concealed by Buckingham Palace, it is claimed. The palace emphasises his cultural visits although meetings are often with senior military, intelligence and domestic security officials.
The report catalogues the prince's meetings in London with Gulf royals and his many foreign trips to the Middle East over the past decade, even as the region entered a period of great instability, war and repression of pro-democracy activists. While details of what was said during Charles's meetings with Arab royals are not known, they would occasionally be followed by announcements by British arms manufacturers such as BAE Systems that they have sealed multi-billion-pound arms deals.
Visits by the Prince of Wales also coincided with high levels of repression against pro-democracy protestors in the region. The human rights situation in many Gulf States, meanwhile, saw a dramatic deterioration.
The most recent meeting between the House of Windsor and Arab royalty came in December, when the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed, visited Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London. The meeting took place despite mounting criticism from UN experts about the conduct of UAE forces fighting in Yemen. "Civilians in Yemen are not starving," said the UN officials, "they are being starved by the parties to the conflict."
A Foreign Office spokesman told Declassified, "Official royal visits are undertaken by members of the Royal Family at the request of the Government to support British interests around the globe." This was confirmed by a spokesman from Clarence House on behalf of Prince Charles: "All of the Prince of Wales's overseas visits are undertaken at the request of [Her Majesty's Government] and are organised by the Royal Visits Committee. The destinations are published in advance and the international media are invited to attend the visits in order to cover the engagements in detail."
He added that all decisions relating to travel are made taking into account the time available, costs and the security of the travelling party. "The costs are published annually as part of the Sovereign Grant Annual Review."
Earlier this week, Oxfam warned that Britain is prolonging the war in Yemen through its sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. This was revealed in the charity's scathing response to government documents showing a large increase in export licenses for UK arms destined for the kingdom. Britain has consistently refused to stop arms sales to the Saudis and follow western allies which have suspended such sales due to concerns about the use of the weaponry in the war in Yemen.