Lord Tariq Ahmad, the British Minister for the Middle East, emphasized the persistent global challenge posed by ISIS, stating that it cannot be effectively addressed by a single country acting alone. He also underlined the crucial role played by Saudi Arabia in bolstering aviation security, defensive cyber security, and combating terrorism and extremism.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, on the sidelines of his participation in the International Anti-Terrorism Coalition conference held in Riyadh, Ahmad highlighted the significant roles undertaken by both the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia within the coalition. He emphasized their joint efforts, alongside international partners, to achieve the permanent defeat of ISIS.
On the Saudi-British relations and their strategic nature, Ahmad indicated that the relationship between the two kingdoms is longstanding and robust, as it has ever been, saying their bilateral ties cover a wide range of interests, including trade, investment, defense, security, energy, as well as shared concerns on regional issues.
He also stressed that the Saudi-British ties support both the Saudi Vision 2030 and the efforts aimed at boosting the growth of the British economy.
The British official emphasized that the meeting of Ministers of the International Coalition to Combat Terrorism in Riyadh served as a crucial platform to maintain pressure on ISIS, considering the ongoing harassment inflicted by the group upon communities in Iraq and Syria.
In this context, he underlined the importance of international cooperation between partners to address the threat of terrorism and preserve the safety of citizens, noting that collaboration with partners was essential to the UK’s approach to terrorism.
Asked about the regional role of Saudi Arabia, the senior UK official noted that the Kingdom was a major political, energy, diplomatic and economic power in the Middle East and beyond.
He added that its status in Islam as Custodian of the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah grants it a distinctive role within the Islamic world.
The minister also pointed to Riyadh’s hosting of the General Secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Ahmad highlighted Saudi Arabia's commitment to fostering security cooperation with both regional and international partners, including the United Kingdom. This collaboration encompasses various domains such as aviation security, defensive cyber security, as well as joint efforts to combat terrorism and extremism.
Furthermore, he conveyed his country's endorsement of Saudi Arabia's endeavors to advance interfaith understanding and facilitate dialogue.
Addressing the crisis in Sudan, the British minister conveyed the UK’s sincere appreciation for the Saudi effort to facilitate the evacuation of thousands of expatriates from different nationalities, including British nationals, from Sudan.
He further acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s efforts, in collaboration with the United States, in brokering short-term ceasefire negotiations held in Jeddah, which aimed to provide essential humanitarian access.
In this context, Ahmad said that the UK stands in solidarity with the people of Sudan for a peaceful and democratic future. He added that his government’s immediate goal was to stop the violence and achieve protection for civilians and safe and unhindered access for humanitarian aid.
Moreover, the minister pointed to the UK’s participation in a new core group, led by the African Union, to facilitate the return of conflicting parties to the negotiating table.
On Yemen, Ahmad expressed his belief that a political settlement was the sole path towards attaining lasting stability in the country and effectively addressing the severe humanitarian crisis
He pointed to a golden opportunity to collectively build on the progress made over the past 15 months, underlining the need to cease all actions that undermine ongoing efforts to achieve peace, including threats posed to oil infrastructure, traders, and shipping companies.
The British minister stated that his country does not endorse the reinstatement of Damascus into the Arab League, emphasizing that the final decision lies with the members of the Arab institution.
According to Ahmad, the future Arab engagement with Syria must be conditional on fundamental changes made by Damascus and Bashar al-Assad’s regime, noting that the latter continues to detain, torture and kill innocent Syrians.
He also called for holding accountable those who have committed human rights abuses, adding that Syria must participate in the UN political process, which remains the only path to achieving a lasting and sustainable peace in the country.
On the international level, Ahmad described Russia’s war on Ukraine as an unprovoked, premeditated and barbaric attack against a sovereign state.
He noted that the United Kingdom condemned the reprehensible actions of the Russian government, which he said were a flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.