Boris shames brutal Putin as PM jets off for crunch oil talks with key partner

Laura Kuenssberg grills Boris Johnson over Saudi visit

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The Prime Minister has defended his visit to Saudi Arabia after touching down in the United Arab Emirates, looking to the UK’s “key partners” for alternative sources of oil to Russian pipelines that have historically accounted for a chunk of the UK’s supply. Mr Johnson said he would not shy away from discussing Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, as politicians and campaign groups denounce closer ties with the Kingdom.

The visit comes just days after Saudi leadership went ahead with its largest mass execution in decades, sanctioning the deaths of 81 men in a single day.

The Prime Minister said on Twitter that “allies” were needed for the UK to face down Vladimir Putin and steady the world’s energy markets.

He said: “We face a new reality, which we have to confront together with our allies.

“I’m visiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are key partners in ensuring regional security and stabilising global energy markets after Russia’s unprecedented, brutal and illegal invasion.”

On the issue of human rights, Mr Johnson said he would revisit the topic, but would bear in mind the “very important relationship” the UK has with “this part of the world”.

He said: “I’ve raised all those issues many, many times over the past […] and I’ll raise them all again today.

“But we have long, long-standing relationships with this part of the world and we need to recognise the very important relationship that we have […] and not just in hydrocarbons.”

Mr Johnson pointed to Saudi investment in British aviation fuel that is more environmentally friendly, adding that this “is the kind of thing that we want to encourage”.

He said collaboration with Saudi Arabia “doesn’t in any way mean that we can’t stick to our principles and raise those issues that we all care about”.

The Prime Minister confirmed on Wednesday that the Government would lay out a new national energy strategy next week, as energy prices continue to rise following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

He has previously called the UK’s reliance on Russian oil an “addiction”, and one which allows the Kremlin to “blackmail” the country.

He said from the UAE: “What Putin is doing in Ukraine is causing global uncertainty and a spike in the price of oil, that feeds through to the forecourts in the UK and everybody can see the effect of the increase in gas prices.”

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He added: “Next week, we’re going to be setting out the energy strategy for the UK, massive jump forward on renewables, more nuclear, using our own hydrocarbons more effectively, also looking at what we can do to source hydrocarbons from places other than Russia.”

Last week, Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed the UK would phase out Russian oil imports by the end of 2022.

Russian imports make up around eight percent of the UK’s current oil supply, and Saudi Arabia is on the list of the “diverse range of reliable suppliers beyond Russia” the UK will look to instead.

Mr Johnson expressed regret for the “terrible mistake” the West made in thinking the world could “somehow go back to normal” with Russian energy supplies following the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea eight years ago.

Writing in the Telegraph, he said: “Economic relations did not just resume – they intensified, with the West taking more Russian gas than ever before, becoming more dependent on the goodwill of Putin and more exposed to the vagaries of the global gas and oil price.”

He added: “And so when he finally came to launch his vicious war in Ukraine, he knew the world would find it very hard to punish him.

“He knew that he had created an addiction.”

He continued: “If the world can end its dependence on Russian oil and gas, we can starve him of cash, destroy his strategy and cut him down to size.”

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