Britain's Hague in Saudi Arabia for talks

5th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Foreign Secretary William Hague arrived in Jeddah on Tuesday for talks with Saudi officials, the British foreign ministry said.

"Foreign Secretary William Hague arrived in Saudi Arabia today for talks with Foreign Minister Prince Saud (al-Faisal) and other senior Saudi interlocutors," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Hague's "discussions with Foreign Minister Prince Saud will focus on regional issues including the opportunities and risks presented by the Arab Spring and key regional developments in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Egypt, Iran, and the Middle East peace process," it said.

In remarks before the visit, Hague said Middle Eastern "governments need to respond to legitimate calls for greater freedom with reform and not repression."

"I will be discussing the importance of this and sharing views on the opportunities and challenges presented by the Arab Spring, as well as a range of other bilateral issues," he said, according to the statement.

Uprisings that toppled long-time dictators in Tunisia and Egypt have spread across the region, including to Libya, where they escalated into war, and to Yemen, Bahrain, and on a smaller scale, Saudi Arabia.

The wave of protests have become known as the Arab Spring.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has responded to protests, which have mainly been centred in Eastern Province, where most of Saudi Arabia's Shiites reside, by cracking down on dissidents, drawing criticism from rights groups and activists.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has since January faced protests calling for him to quit but has not yet ceded power, has been hospitalised in Saudi Arabia since he was wounded in an attack on his palace on June 4.

Saudi Arabia also currently houses Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, the long-time Tunisian strongman who was forced out by protesters in January.

© 2011 AFP

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