Boris Johnson is set to travel to Saudi Arabia next week for oil talks as he tries to extricate the UK from dependence on energy supplies from Russia.
Although Downing Street insists the trip is not finalized or confirmed, the Prime Minister faces calls from Tory MPs to intervene to urge the Saudis to release more oil.
The potential trip emerged as fuel prices at the pump hit record highs, topping £1.60 a liter for petrol and £1.70 for diesel, according to the latest figures from the RAC.
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Government insiders say the Prime Minister has better ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman than any other G7 leader and the couple have exchanged WhatsApp messages.
In contrast, it was reported that the prince refused to respond to a call from President Biden, who denounced Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Mr Johnson’s potential trip comes as Saudi Arabia announced it had executed 81 men, including seven Yemenis and one Syrian, for terrorism and other offenses including ‘deviant beliefs’ in the largest execution of mass for decades.
The Saudi Interior Ministry said: “These individuals, 81 in number, have been convicted of various crimes, including the murder of innocent men, women and children.
“The crimes committed by these individuals also include pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Houthis.”
The last time the kingdom carried out an execution on such a scale was in 1980, when 63 people were killed in a day, a year after militants seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca, according to media reports. officials.
Regarding the prime minister’s plans to travel to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with the prince, The Times reported: “The trip has not been finalized, but seems increasingly likely.”
A Number 10 spokesperson told Sky News: ‘Nothing is planned at this time. We will update in the usual way if anything is confirmed.
In his interview with Beth Rigby on Sky News On Thursday, Mr Johnson said: “What we are going to do is look at our energy supply…to move away from reliance on Russian oil and gas.
“We will now take the dramatic steps we need to take to have an independent energy supply, so that we are no longer able to be blackmailed by Putin.”
Claiming that Mr Johnson is well placed to persuade the Saudis to pump more oil, government insiders point to his praise for the prince’s reform agenda when he was foreign secretary.
And controversially, unlike the US, the UK has continued to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, defying critics who have protested the use of arms in the war on Yemen.
The prime minister’s allies also point out that in a high-profile coup he persuaded the Saudis to commit to net zero by 2060 ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow last year.
Mr Johnson was due to visit Saudi Arabia twice in recent years, most recently last month on a trip that was postponed due to the Ukraine crisis. A phone call took place instead.
And senior Tory MPs believe that after the Saudis’ phone call to President Biden, Mr Johnson could broker an oil deal that could be crucial to easing the energy crisis.
Former cabinet minister Steve Baker, a leading figure in the Tories’ Net Zero Scrutiny Group, told The Daily Telegraph this week: “Boris has come into his own during this crisis.
“Now would be the time for him to help deliver more oil and gas from Saudi Arabia so that we can stop Putin’s war machine sooner.”
Former Middle East minister Andrew Murrison said: “The UK has always had a positive and constructive relationship with Saudi Arabia based on dialogue. I’m sure that will help in the current context.” .