Saudi Arabia ambassador says Jeremy Corbyn 'breached respect' over prison deal

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to London has criticised Jeremy Corbyn in an unusual public intervention, claiming the Labour leader "breached respect" between his country and the UK.

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz said Mr Corbyn's claim he convinced David Cameron to cancel a bid for a multi-million pound deal to train prison staff in Saudi Arabia was an example of how relations have deteriorated between the two nations.

Earlier this month the Government announced it was dropping its bid for the contract. Mr Corbyn said the Prime Minister had been "shamed" into ditching the deal because of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, including the planned execution of a protester, who was just 17 at the time of his alleged offence. Downing Street said it was a financial decision.

Prince Mohammed warned of "potentially serious repercussions" of a breakdown in relations with the UK.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: "Over the past few weeks, there has been an alarming change in the way Saudi Arabia is discussed in Britain.

Jeremy Corbyn has been critical of the UK's relationship with Saudi Arabia. Credit: PA

"One recent example of this mutual respect being breached was when Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Opposition, claimed that he had convinced Prime Minister David Cameron to cancel a prison consultancy contract with Saudi Arabia worth £5.9 million.

"This coincided with speculation linking the contract's cancellation to a number of domestic events in the Kingdom.

"If the extensive trade links between the two countries are going to be subordinate to certain political ideologies, then this vital commercial exchange is going to be at risk.

"We want this relationship to continue but we will not be lectured to by anyone. Hasty decisions prompted by short-term gains often do more harm than good in the longer term."

Prince Mohammed urged respect for Saudi Arabia's strict system of Sharia law and highlighted its work to battle Islamic extremism.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly defended the UK's close relations with the Saudis - pointing to the role its intelligence played in foiling a plot to bomb a freight aircraft in UK airspace.