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FAC report tells UK to get tougher on Bahrain

The UK’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) published its long-awaited report on the UK’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on 22 November. It was broadly supportive of the government’s pursual of good relations with the Gulf, but urged London to put more pressure on Bahrain to reform. The inquiry was first announced in September 2012, provoking such dismay in Saudi Arabia that its ambassador to London, Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Al-Saud, said at the time that Riyadh would be “re-evaluating” its historic relations with Britain. In fact, the Saudis – as GSN predicted – had little to fear. After a year of gathering evidence – including 71 written submissions, six oral evidence sessions with academics, politicians, diplomats and human rights experts, a visit to Riyadh and a series of informal meetings (including one with Bahraini human rights minister Salah Bin Ali Abdulrahman and another with the secretary-general of Al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman) – the report concluded that, while the Gulf states might be “particularly challenging” in terms of human rights and democracy issues, “most are also wealthy and powerful, and vitally important to many of the UK’s interests in the region”.

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