Sir William Patey claimed that even though the Gulf State – which is the UK’s biggest trade and security ally in the Middle East – does not directly fund terrorism, it still finances religious institutions which radicalize individuals, becoming the breeding ground of terrorists.
“It is unhealthy and we need to do something about it,” he said, according to the Guardian.
“The Saudis [have] not quite appreciated the impact their funding of a certain brand of Islam is having in the countries in which they do it – it is not just Britain and Europe.
“That is a dialogue we need to have. They are not funding terrorism.
“They are funding something else, which may down the road lead to individuals being radicalised and becoming fodder for terrorism.”
Patey, who was the UK ambassador to Riyadh from 2006 to 2010 and previously head of the Foreign Office Middle East desk, called for “a grown up dialogue with the Gulf about what we think,” adding that even if it is not the Saudi regime funding terrorists directly, there are individuals within the country who may defy the government.
Since this story was first published, Patley told RT his remarks were made under Chatham House rules. That means participants to a meeting are free to use the information received, but neither the identity or the affiliation of the speaker may be identified.
“These remarks were made under Chatham House rules which the Guardian either ignored or were unaware of. I do not wish to give the story more prominence.”
Patley added that his comments had been misrepresented by other media.
“The Independent carries the headline that UK says Saudi Arabia is funding terrorism when I said the exact opposite!”
The former ambassador’s comments are likely to stir controversy as they come a day after the government refused to publish a Home Office-commissioned report of foreign funding of extremist organizations and individuals in the UK.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the already much-delayed report – commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron – will be permanently kept from the public eye amid “national security concerns.”
The report found that while most funding of extremists in Britain comes from UK-based individual donors, some donations come from abroad.
The decision to not publish the report has caused an outcry and intensified allegations that the government is delaying publishing the report, which was ready six months ago, in order to save diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia – a country largely expected to be named in the paper as financing extremists in Britain.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron hit back at the decision to not disclose all details of the report and accused the government of putting its diplomatic ties above Britain’s values.
“We cannot tackle the root causes of terrorism in the UK without full disclosure of the states and institutions that fund extremism in our country.
“Instead of supporting the perpetrators of these vile ideologies, the government should be naming and shaming them – including so-called allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar if need be,” he said, according to Business Insider.
“It seems like the government, yet again, is putting our so-called friendship with Saudi Arabia above our values. This shoddy decision is the latest in a long line where we have put profit over principle.”