UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking mega oil deal with the Saudis to ‘replace’ Russian energy
Johnson is heading off to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesdayto discuss how to boost Middle Eastern oil and gas exports and reduce Britain’s dependence on Russia.
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He denounced Moscow’s military action in Ukraine but said nothing about the seven-year conflict still raging in Yemen.
In a statement ahead of his trip Johnson slammed Russia’s “brutal and unprovoked assault” on Ukraine while declaring that London is “building an international coalition” to deal with a “new reality” in the energy sector.
He said: “The world must wean itself off Russian hydrocarbons and starve Putin’s addiction to oil and gas,” adding that “Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are key international partners in that effort. We will work with them to ensure regional security, support the humanitarian relief effort and stabilise global energy markets for the longer term.”
ABC news reports: The controversial visit has sparked an outcry of protest from U.K. lawmakers and rights groups, coming just days after Saudi Arabia said it executed 81 people in the largest known mass execution in the kingdom’s modern history.
Johnson planned to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in the United Arab Emirates, then travel to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He is expected to talk about increasing Gulf energy supplies as well as discuss international coordination in dialing up diplomatic and economic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The U.K. is building an international coalition to deal with the new reality we face. The world must wean itself off Russian hydrocarbons and starve Putin’s addiction to oil and gas,” Johnson said in the statement. “Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are key international partners in that effort.”
Johnson is also seeking to boost Saudi investment in the U.K.’s renewable energy sector. During the trip, Saudi Arabia’s Alfanar group is expected to confirm a new 1 billion pound ($1.3 billion) investment in a sustainable aviation fuel project in northern England.
Ahead of the trip, Johnson said Western leaders made a “terrible mistake” by letting Putin “get away with” annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. He wrote in the Daily Telegraph that Western dependence on Russian energy supplies had emboldened Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The world cannot be subject to this continuous blackmail,” Johnson wrote. “As long as the West is economically dependent on Putin, he will do all he can to exploit that dependence.”
But many U.K. lawmakers, including those in Johnson’s own Conservative party, questioned the decision to turn to Saudi Arabia, citing the recent mass execution and the kingdom’s human rights record.
Defending his trip, Johnson told reporters in London that “if we are going to stand up to Putin’s bullying,” it will be necessary to talk to other energy producers.
His spokesman said Johnson will raise the issue of the executions with the government in Riyadh during his visit.