Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- A source affiliated with the British Defense Secretary Liam Fox’s visit to Saudi Arabia, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Britain has provided assurances regarding the safety of the Eurofighter Typhoon jets, recently received by the Royal Saudi Air Force, within the context of a military deal between the two countries.
Doubts had surfaced about the safety of the Typhoon jets, in the wake of the death of a Saudi pilot, as a result of a plane crash involving a similar type of aircraft during a training flight in Spanish airspace.
Informed sources quoted the British Defense Secretary, who yesterday concluded his two-day visit, as saying that the Typhoon jet which crashed “contained a simple design error”, stressing that Britain had amended the error in all aircraft of this type. Sources accompanying the British minister confirmed that he had yesterday visited an air base in Taif, where the Typhoon jets will be based.
Unverified reports over the past two weeks, speculated that Saudi Arabia, and other countries, have decided to suspend Eurofighter Typhoon jet drills, as a result of the death of the Saudi pilot.
However, according to information confirmed by sources close to the British Defense Secretary, Saudi pilots are continuing with the Typhoon drills.
Liam Fox, besides his main talks in Saudi Arabia, touched upon the subject of Typhoon jets. However – according to sources – this topic was not at the center of the talks he held with the Saudi Arabian political leadership, where subjects relating to the Middle East came at the top of the discussion agenda.
The day before yesterday, Mr. Fox met with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, as well as Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, in separate meetings.
Nicholas Heath, a political official and spokesperson for the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia, confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the British Defense Secretary had focused on Middle Eastern issues, in addition to the situation in Afghanistan, during his meetings in Saudi Arabia. He indicated that one topic discussed was ways to encourage Iran to show greater transparency, amidst the backdrop of uncertainty that surrounds its nuclear program.
Nicholas Heath described the talks between Liam Fox and Saudi officials as “very good”, highlighting that they reflected the depth of the relationship between Riyadh and London.