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Truss thanks Saudi crown prince for help freeing Britons captured in Ukraine

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (Victoria Jones/PA)
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (Victoria Jones/PA)

Liz Truss has thanked the crown prince of Saudi Arabia for his help securing the release of five Britons captured by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine in their first call since she took the reins in Downing Street.

The leaders also discussed their countries’ “strategic partnership” on defence and energy security, while Ms Truss offered the UK’s “continued encouragement for progress in Saudi Arabia’s domestic reforms”, according to No 10.

In June, when she was foreign secretary, Ms Truss offered a robust defence of British ties to Saudi Arabia, stressing that the world is not “perfect”.

She was speaking following the launch of talks on a fresh trade deal between the UK and six Gulf nations.

An attempt to foster better relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states is controversial, amid questions over their record on human rights.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the Saudi crown prince also offered his “sincere condolences” on the death of the Queen in the leaders’ first call with Ms Truss as PM on Monday afternoon.

Prime Minister Liz Truss (Toby Melville/PA)
Prime Minister Liz Truss (Toby Melville/PA)

“The Prime Minister thanked the crown prince for his personal role in securing the release of five British detainees held by Russia-backed forces in eastern Ukraine last week, to the great relief of their families,” they said.

“They discussed the strategic partnership between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia across a range of issues, including cooperation on defence and energy security.

“The leaders welcomed progress in ending the conflict in Yemen and agreed on the importance of continuing political dialogue to extend the truce.”

They added: “The Prime Minister reiterated her focus on agreeing a strong UK-GCC trade deal and growing bilateral trade and investment in areas like aviation and clean technology.

“She also offered the UK’s continued support and encouragement for progress in Saudi Arabia’s domestic reforms.

“The crown prince extended his sincere condolences on the death of Her Majesty the Queen, and the leaders looked forward to continuing to grow the strong relationship fostered during her late Majesty’s reign.”