Cameron urges Saudis to turn on the oil taps

Pipeline could be vital to the world economy if Iran blockades the Strait of Hormuz

David Cameron has called on the King of Saudi Arabia to step up his country's oil production in the face of Iranian threats to block off the sea corridor through which one sixth of the world's oil supplies pass.

In private talks with King Abdullah during an official visit to the Kingdom yesterday, Mr Cameron expressed Britain's fears that a blockade could destabilise the world economy.

Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Persian Gulf with international ports, if the EU imposes sanctions on its crude exports. About 15.5 million barrels of oil pass through the Strait every day.

Saudi oil would continue flow through the kingdom's East-West Pipeline, which can carry as much as 5 million barrels a day. Mr Cameron is thought to have asked that Saudi Arabia increase production regardless of any blockade, to guarantee oil supplies to countries which rely on Iranian oil – which would be effected by EU sanctions.

Some of the most economically vulnerable EU countries, including Greece, Spain and Italy, are among the largest importers of Iranian oil and this has delayed the imposition of sanctions.

Downing Street refused to comment last night but one source said: "It is in no one's interest for the price of oil to be destabilised." Mr Cameron said: "It is in the interests of the whole world that those straits are open and, if there was any threat to close them, I am sure the whole world would come together and make sure they stayed open."

The United States has warned leaders of the regime in Iran through back-channels that any attempt to close down the Strait of Hormuz would not go unanswered. "That's another red line for us and ... we will respond to them," the US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, said this week.

The two leaders also discussed the situation in Syria, and Mr Cameron later indicated that Britain would be prepared to lead UN action against the country – in the face of Russian opposition.

In an interview he said: "We stand ready as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to take a fresh resolution to that Council, based on what the Arab League is doing and saying, and daring others that if they want to veto that resolution to try to explain why they are willing to stand by and watch such appalling bloodshed by someone who has turned into such an appalling dictator."

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets yesterday in eastern Saudi Arabia after a Shiite youth was killed in a clash with security forces.

Despite calls for Mr Cameron to be "completely frank and firm" about human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia, he is believed to be more concerned about securing Saudi support for sanctions.

He is also keen to boost trade with the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is Britain's biggest trading partner in the Middle East with bilateral trade worth £15bn a year.

Tim Hancock, the UK campaigns director for Amnesty International, said: "There is shocking disrespect for basic human rights in Saudi Arabia and David Cameron should be completely frank and firm with King Abdullah about this.

"If Mr Cameron is discussing arms deals on this trip he must ensure that they will be subject to rigorous controls."

Saudi-British trade in numbers

£2.5bn: Value of British exports to Saudi Arabia, equivalent to just 1.1% of the total, making it only our 24th biggest trading partner (smaller than Poland or Turkey).

27%: Proportion of UK exports of "armoured fighting vehicles" sold to Saudi Arabia in 2009, making it the second biggest buyer of UK arms.

72: The number of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets bought by Saudi Arabia in a multibillion-pound deal with BAE Systems. Reportedly the British firm is negotiating to secure more sales.

£62bn: The value of Saudi investment in the UK each year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?