London, Asharq Al-Awsat – British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, William Patey has described the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a “force of good in region” saying it is playing a positive role. He asserted that its cooperation in fighting terrorism “is excellent” and pointed out that security cooperation does not only help Britain and Saudi Arabia fight terrorism inside their territories but also helps fight it in the world. Speaking at a meeting with a number of correspondents at the British Foreign Office, Patey noted that security cooperation is varied and not just limited to the exchange of intelligence information but goes further to the exchange of expertise, particularly in terms of developing the abilities to analyze the DNA and using it to uncover crime.
He rejected accusations that the kingdom is financing extremist groups in Pakistan and stressed that Saudi Arabia is playing the opposite role and its interests require it to fight terrorism in Pakistan, not feed it. He said that if it discovers that individuals are financing terrorist groups it exerts everything in its power to hunt them down and pointed out that it has become more cautious than before concerning the assistance it offers to build mosques in the world and has been scrutinizing the source that receives the assistance since the 9/11 attacks before granting it.
Ambassador Patey welcomed the decision of the British House of Lords, the highest judicial authority in the country, on stopping the investigations connected to Al-Yamamah arms deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia. He stressed that the investigations into this deal that have been conducted in Britain so far have not affected relations between the two countries but added that the decision to stop the investigations “was good.”
The House of Lords backed yesterday an appeal by the investigations bureau [Serious Fraud Office] saying it acted lawfully for fear that national security could be harmed if the investigations were continued.
Patey also asserted that Saudi Arabia and Britain “have common interests in almost all fields, starting with establishing security in Iraq, opposing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and backing a stable government in Lebanon…” in addition to the cooperation in the security field. He said the two countries’ cooperation in the education field is developing daily and pointed out that the number of Saudi students studying in British universities this year doubled to around 8,000. He stressed that Britain encourages Saudi students to come to London and offers them more facilities than any other country. He added that the aim from receiving thousands of Saudi students is the hope that “these students will return to their country more understanding of our culture and carrying positive ideas about us.”
He talked about new cooperation between the two countries in the energy field and said this cooperation was discussed during the Jeddah energy conference and expressed hope of building on this meeting. He described the call by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz for interfaith dialogue, which was held in Madrid, “a courageous step” and hoped that it would have complementary steps. He said: “The interfaith dialogue is an attempt to say there is not one type of Muslims in the world, the terrorists.” He noted that the king explained that the meeting was not religious or aimed at convincing others of a certain religion but its aim was to find common ground between all religions and to build on it. Patey went on to assert that Britain, which considers the Muslim minority in it one of the largest religious minorities, does not link Islam to terrorism and said: “We differentiate between Islam and the terrorists who use religion as a pretext.” To underlined Britain’s respect for Islam, the British ambassador said official establishments in Britain designate around 200 special worship places for Muslims every Friday. He also pointed to the great improvement in implementing the reforms in Saudi Arabia and called its announcement of 10 judicial reforms a great step and added: “Reforms and progress have been made which some might consider slow but Saudi society seems to be happy with them.”