British Prime Minister David Cameron traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last week in an effort to promote sales of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet. In an email interview, Rosemary Hollis, a professor of Middle East policy studies at City University London, discussed relations between the U.K. and the Persian Gulf states.
WPR: What is the state of diplomatic and economic relations between the U.K. and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states?
Rosemary Hollis: British economic and diplomatic relations with the GCC states are intertwined. Fully aware of this, British Prime Minister David Cameron recently visited the Gulf to ensure that some difficulties on the diplomatic front would not prevent Britain securing some new arms contracts and the renewal of BP’s share in oil production in the United Arab Emirates. Cameron’s task was to assuage concerns that his government’s stance on recent crackdowns on dissidents in the Gulf states, and a move by the U.K. Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee to investigate British relations with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in particular, will not damage long-standing ties with the Gulf rulers. Britain exports some $24 billion worth of goods and services a year to the Gulf states, and GCC investments in the U.K. were valued at nearly $3 billion last year.