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Head of UK defence firm BAE criticises Riyadh over Khashoggi and Yemen war

Chairman of BAE Systems, which has supplied jets used in Yemen, says conflict and journalist's murder have 'damaged position of Saudi Arabia'
BAE systems has sold its Eurofighter Typhoon jets, and provided engineering support, to the Royal Saudi Air Force, which has used the planes for bombing missions in Yemen (Wikimedia)

The killing of Jamal Khashoggi and Yemen's war have "damaged the position of Saudi Arabia in the eyes of the world", the chairman of BAE Systems, the UK's largest defence firm, has said.

The murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October sparked global outrage.

It also raised questions about Western business activity in Saudi Arabia where BAE and its partners are currently engaged in a multi-billion pound deal to sell Eurofighter Typhoon planes.

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Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries, is locked in a nearly four-year-old war that pits Iran-aligned Houthi rebels against the government backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the West.

"Two issues damaged the position of Saudi Arabia in the eyes of the world - the Khashoggi affair is one of them and also the war in Yemen," Chairman Roger Carr told the UK's Sky News on Saturday.

"On Khashoggi, we have seen that politicians have admonished Saudi Arabia.

"Politicians didn't believe the way that was done and handled was appropriate or acceptable and that's exactly right," he said.

BAE planes used in Yemen

The conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people and caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

BAE systems has sold its Eurofighter Typhoon jets, and provided engineering support, to the Royal Saudi Air Force, which has used the planes for bombing missions in Yemen.

On Yemen, Carr said: "Our involvement with Saudi Arabia is helping us to take them to a point where a war that is, for them, a defensive war is something that they all recognise as something that needs to be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible."

Riyadh is pursuing a plan to diversify the Arab world's largest economy away from reliance on crude revenues, in part by attracting increasing amounts of foreign investment.

"Saudi Arabia was a country that was developing very well under new leadership - a sense of liberalisation, opening up the country, opening up to opportunities for women.

"All these things were being very well received," Carr claimed of the situation before Khashoggi's murder and the Yemen war.

"What we want to see, by being a consistent and critical friend, is that Saudi Arabia, needs to return to the pathway it was on and develop in the way it was."