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Jeremy Corbyn calls for 'difficult conversations' with Saudi Arabia and Gulf states over extremism funding

Labour leader says PM cannot talk about addressing issues of extremism while suppressing a report about one of its sources

Jeremy Corbyn has said the “difficult conversations” Theresa May wants to have about Islamist extremism should start with “Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states [which] have funded extremist ideology”.

In a speech in Carlisle following the terror attack in London Bridge which killed at seven people, Mr Corbyn was responding to Ms May’s comments on rooting out extremism.

He criticised her alleged suppression of a report into foreign funding of UK-based extremism which was originally due to be published in 2016 but was held back over due to its "sensitive" contents.

He said: “Our democratic values must be maintained. We must resist Islamophobia and division and turn out on 8 June united in our determination to show our democracy is strong.

“And, yes, we do need to have some difficult conversations starting with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that have funded and fuelled extremist ideology.

“It is no good Theresa May suppressing a report into the foreign funding of extremist groups. We have to get serious about cutting off the funding to these terror networks, including Isis, here and in the Middle East.”

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Earlier that day Ms May gave a speech outside Number 10, saying rooting out terrorism would involve some “difficult and embarrassing conversations”.

“While we have made significant progress in recent years there is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country,” she said.

“So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society.”

The Conservative government has been criticised for increased arms sales to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia is one of the top destinations for UK arms export licences with recent sales exceeding £3.5bn.

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The arms are widely believed to be being used in the brutal conflict in neighbouring Yemen where the Saudis intervened in 2015 to prop up exiled Sunni Yemen President Abdrabbuh Mansir Hadi against Shia Hezbollah forces who are backed by their arch-enemy Iran.

The conflict has so far claimed over 10,000 lives and two thirds of the population are at risk of famine.

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Members of Ms May’s government have even expressed disquiet at Riyadh’s actions with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson speaking of his “profound concern” about Yemen in December last year.

He said stability in the country could not be brought about by force alone.

A leaked intelligence report last year said that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar are supporting extremist Islamic groups in Germany.

A brief seen by the Süddeutsche Zeitung and broadcasters NDR and WDR raised concern over a reported increase in support for fundamentalist Salafism in Germany, warning that the ideology already has 10,000 followers and is growing.

The report, by Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency and Federal Intelligence Service (BND) reportedly accused Gulf groups of funding mosques, religious schools, hardline preachers and conversion or “dawah” groups to spread the ideology.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton said in leaked emails, published by WikiLeaks prior to the 2016 US election, that Saudi Arabia and Qatar give Isis clandestine financial and logistic support.

The email exchanges between Hillary Clinton and her 2016 campaign chair John Podesta contained an exchange that showed the presidential candidate identified the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar as “clandestine” “financial and logistic” supporters of the terrorist group, despite surface cooperation between the US and the Sunni states on combating the militants and other actions in Syria’s multi-sided civil war.

“While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Isis] and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” Ms Clinton reportedly wrote.

 

“This effort will be enhanced by the stepped up commitment in the [Kurdish Regional Government]. The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious US pressure.”

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