LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to make combatting the financing of terrorism a priority at the G20 but is facing calls of hypocrisy over the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.
May arrived in Hamburg on Thursday night for the summit, and said that she is “pleased that counter-terrorism is top of the agenda,” yet is facing calls from opposition leaders that she should put Saudi Arabia under pressure to limit funding for terrorist organisations.
Speaking before the summit the prime minister said: “As we deny physical space to terrorists to operate in theatre, we must outpace the terrorist methodology as it develops to attack other vulnerable targets and increases inspired attacks.
“We must therefore combat the threat from every angle. This includes taking measures against permissive environments for terrorist financing, and monitoring the dispersal of foreign fighters from battle.”
May was accused earlier this week of sitting on a report into how terrorism is funded as it could implicate Saudi Arabia in funding terrorism and extremism abroad, which could lead to the Gulf state rethinking its close diplomatic ties with the UK.
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said that the refusal to release the report: “Leaves question marks over whether their decision is influenced by our diplomatic ties.
“To defeat terror it’s vital that politicians have full view of the facts, even if they are inconvenient for the government,” she added.
The prime minister has a meeting with US President Donald Trump on Friday, in which she will discuss the US’ withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement and the situation in North Korea. She will also be having private talks with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Guardian: “If Theresa May is serious about cutting off financial and ideological support for terrorism, she should publish the suppressed report on foreign funding of UK-based extremism and have difficult conversations with Saudia Arabia, not hug Saudi and allied Gulf states even closer.”
The Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said that countries like Saudi Arabia were “key exporters of extremist ideology around the world and yet we look the other way in exchange for massive arms deals.” Farron called on May to use the G20 summit to have “face to face” meetings with the Saudi representative.
A report by the Henry Jackson Society released on Wednesday said that Saudi was the key exporter of Islamist extremism to the UK, although the country’s embassy in London says the claims were “categorically false”.
May said in an interview with Sky News on Friday morning: “I think there are initiatives we can take as the global community to prevent the financing of terrorism.”