London, Asharq Al-Awsat- King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz arrived in London yesterday for a three-day official visit to Britain, the start of a 13-day tour that will also include Italy, Germany and Turkey.
King Abdullah was welcomed at Heathrow Airport by Prince Charles, and a number of Saudi and British officials. The King and Prince Charles met briefly at the airport’s VIP lounge before the King left for his guest residence, reported the Saudi press agency.
During his visit, King Abdullah will receive an official welcome from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, attend a state banquet, meet with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and attend a dinner hosted by the Lord Mayor of London. The King will also meet separately with Prince Charles to discuss the prince’s charities in Saudi Arabia.
However, According to a senior British Foreign Office official Iran and the Middle East peace process are likely to dominate Wednesday’s talks here between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah reported the AFP news agency.
Britain sees Saudi Arabia as a crucial partner in economic ties, Middle East regional stability and combating Islamist terrorism.
“We have a new king in Saudi Arabia and a new prime minister here, so this is an auspicious moment to mark the strength of the relationship between our two kingdoms,” the official said.
“The relationship we have with Saudi Arabia is in many ways one of the most important we have with any state. Certainly in the Middle East it is central to us and it is also, I believe, central to the Saudi Arabians.
“In economic and commercial terms the relationship is important and strong. We also share a whole range of different political interests.”
The Middle East peace process, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran would likely be covered in Wednesday’s talks, he said, adding: “On all these issues Saudi Arabia has a distinctive and important role to play.”
He said Britain and Saudi Arabia had shared interests in counter-terrorism and counter-radicalism and there were also likely to be on the agenda.
Saudi Arabia and Britain are expected to sign a number of bilateral agreements, including: a UK-Saudi joint statement; an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation; and Memoranda of Understanding on vocational education and sports cooperation.
In an interview with the BBC prior to departing the Kingdom, King Abdullah said that Britain did not act on information provided by Saudi Arabia that could have averted the July 7, 2005 suicide bombings in London. He also expressed the belief that countries, including Britain, should do more to fight terrorism.