David Cameron with Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in 2011
David Cameron has been accused of "deafening" silence on Saudi Arabia's decision to execute 47 people on terrorism charges on Saturday morning.
With sectarian tensions rising across the Middle East region, including the Saudi embassy being ransacked in Iran's capital Tehran, Number 10 left it down to the foreign office to issue this statement:
The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country. The death penalty undermines human dignity and there is no evidence that it works as a deterrent.
The foreign secretary regularly raises human rights issues with his counterparts in countries of concern, including Saudi Arabia. We seek to build strong and mature relationships so that we can be candid with each other about those areas on which we do not agree, including on human rights.
In its editorial this weekend, our sister paper the Independent on Sunday described the statement as "vague" and "feeble in the extreme":
The death penalty is abhorrent and our leaders and diplomats should say so at every opportunity, but this is a particularly shocking example.
The Saudi law of January 2014 does not merely criminalise dissent, it defines it as terrorism and imposes the harshest penalties.
The early silence from Mr Cameron was deafening, and the failure of the Foreign Office to put out more than a vague statement of disapproval of the death penalty was feeble in the extreme.
Among those executed on Saturday was Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who called for protests against the Saudi royal family. His death was met with outrage in Iran - the main Shia country in the region - and threatens an escalation of violence in Yemen where Iran is fighting a proxy war with the Saudis.
As the Sindy concludes:
It might be diplomatic if our prime minister could tell the Saudis that he understands their problem with dissidents. But if only he could say, in the words of Iyad El-Baghdadi, the Arab Spring activist expelled from UAE for his ideas:
'The antidote to bad ideas is better ideas, not beheadings.'