In Brief

Theresa May defends Saudi Arabia trip after human rights concerns

Prime Minister says relationship with kingdom is important for UK's security, defence and trade

Theresa May has defended her trip to Saudi Arabia, saying the UK's relationship with the kingdom is important "for our security, for trade and the future".

The Prime Minister arrives in Riyadh today, following criticism of British arms deals supporting the Saudi-led coalition in neighbouring Yemen, where the conflict has killed or injured 49,000 people.

"We are concerned about the humanitarian situation, that's why the UK last year was the fourth largest donor to the Yemen in terms of humanitarian aid - £103m. We will be continuing with that," she told the BBC.

"And yes, we will be raising the humanitarian issue. We believe it is important that we recognise the threat that there is in terms of people's lives. We will be supporting that through the aid and support that we give."

She added that the relationship between the UK and Saudi Arabia was imperative for security, defence and trade.

"As I said when I came to the Gulf at the end of last year: Gulf security is our security, Gulf prosperity is our prosperity," she said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said if May did not challenge Saudi leaders over these issues, "it will be clear she is ready to sacrifice human rights and security on the altar of the arms trade".

John Pienaar, deputy political editor of the BBC, said: "Shared intelligence in the fight against terrorism is said to have been valuable. And the PM's been keen to emphasise the British aid effort in Yemen.

"Yet some MPs - on the Conservative side too - dislike the sight of Britain supporting a blockade in Yemen, and seeking to relieve the suffering it causes at the same moment. Others simply argue that Britain is selling its principles for profit."

The Prime Minister also said she hoped to use the trip to send a message about female leadership in a country where women need permission from a male guardian to travel and are barred from driving.

She told reporters: "I hope that people see me as a woman leader [and] will see what women can achieve and how women can be in significant positions.

"I've talked to the Saudis on a number of occasions now and I raise issues of this sort. I think we have already seen some changes."

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