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Saudi crown prince moves closer to United Kingdom fighter jet deal

11 March 2018

Shares in BAE Systems jumped on Friday, spurred by news that Saudi Arabia had signed a provisional agreement with the UK Government to buy 48 Typhoon fighter jets - a much-needed shot in the arm for the defence company.

While the memorandum of intent comes as good news for BAE and its partners in the Eurofighter consortium, earlier expectations for a follow-on Saudi acquisition had been based around the potential sale of up to 72 Typhoons.

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Prince Mohammed is on a three-day visit to Britain, which began with a lunch with Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday, and will see him hold the second of two meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May later Thursday.

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Prime Minister Theresa May this week defended the UK's relationship with Saudi Arabia - saying the security sharing partnership had saved "hundreds of British lives".

Although May noted that she would raise humanitarian concerns about Yemen in his meeting with bin Salman, she stressed that all arms sales to Saudi Arabia were strictly regulated.

"If confirmed this shameful deal will be celebrated in the palaces of Riyadh and by the arms companies who will profit from it, but it will mean even greater destruction for the people of Yemen", said Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

A Saudi-led military coalition has been fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015, with rights groups accusing both sides of carrying out possible war crimes.

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Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said the United Kingdom had already licensed £4.6bn of arms for Saudi Arabia since the Yemen conflict began in 2015.

Later this month Prince Mohammed, 32 will visit the United States, which also wants lucrative ties with the country.

The deal will be welcomed at Warton, Lancashire, where the swing-role combat aircraft are built by BAE Systems.

BAE, Europe's biggest defence contractor, has long awaited a major Saudi order for Typhoons, and slowed production in 2016 to ensure it would remain competitive.

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Saudi crown prince moves closer to United Kingdom fighter jet deal