Beleaguered British prime minister Boris Johnson has defied opponents in the UK by praising Neom, the Saudi megacity project, as representing a “greener future”.
Johnson made his remarks ahead of the G20 summit, to be hosted this year by Saudi Arabia.
He said Neom was “a city built on fossil fuels” but powered by clean energy, and added that he would have liked to visit the city.
To put his warm words in context, the UK is currently hurtling towards the end of the Brexit negotiations – and it needs all of the international partnerships it can get. Johnson was elected on a promise of economic benefits to leaving the European trading block, but in exiting the European Union will lose all of the trade deals in place between the EU and other states.
Britain is also a major exporter of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, which has drawn the ire of human rights groups, opposition parties and public opinion at home.
Johnson’s colleague, foreign secretary Dominic Raab, was recently petitioned by a group of lawyers representing the Huwaitat tribe to boycott the G20 in response to the tribe’s displacement to make way for Neom.
Some 20,000 Huwaitat tribespeople are set to be removed from the land they have called home for centuries to make way for the megacity project, with dozens already arrested and one killed by security forces for daring to stand up to the Saudi regime’s plans.