British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will press Riyadh to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when he visits Saudi Arabia this week, a Foreign Office official has said.
Johnson is set to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for talks on oil supplies, as he stressed that the West must end its dependence on Russian energy.
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In advance of the trip, Johnson said Western leaders made a “terrible mistake” by letting Russian President Vladimir Putin “get away with” annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
He wrote in the Daily Telegraph that Western “addiction” to Russian energy supplies had emboldened Putin’s invasion last month of Ukraine.
“We cannot go on like this. 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.”
Officials have not confirmed details about the visit to Saudi Arabia but Johnson will reportedly meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this week in hopes the Gulf state can increase its production of fuel.
The visit has met an outcry of protest from UK legislators and rights groups, since it comes just days after Saudi Arabia said it executed 81 people in the largest known mass execution in the kingdom’s modern history.
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 told reporters on Tuesday that Johnson would raise the issue of the executions reported in Saudi Arabia during his visit.
“We routinely raise human rights issues with other countries, including with Saudi Arabia, and we’ll raise Saturday’s executions with the government in Riyadh,” the spokesman said.
Johnson’s government announced last week that the UK will phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of the year. But the UK is much less reliant on Russia for fuel than its European allies, taking about 3 percent of gas from Russia, Johnson said.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are top OPEC oil producers and have the spare capacity to pump more oil, but have given no indication of an imminent change in their oil production policy despite rising energy prices due to the Russian war on Ukraine.
Both have so far stuck with Russia and the OPEC+ agreement that was set into motion at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to lift oil prices.
The group, consisting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies led by Russia and Saudi Arabia, calls for a gradual monthly release of more oil onto the market.
But the agreement has been in place since well before Russia’s war in Ukraine drove up oil prices to their highest in years.
Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, have signalled that current wartime energy security demands that allied nations pump more.