The prime minister has spoken with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince but Downing Street did not say if Theresa May raised concerns about a crackdown on women’s rights activists in the kingdom.
This weekend, Saudi state media reported that eight people accused of communicating with organisations opposed to the kingdom have been temporarily released, although nine others are still being held.
Human rights groups have identified women’s rights activists among arrests last month, with the action coming ahead of the lifting of a ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia on 24 June.
The United Nations has called on the kingdom to provide details of those arrested and ensure their legal rights are guaranteed.
The action has prompted speculation the arrests are aimed at appeasing conservatives opposed to social reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, while also serving as a warning to activists not to push further.
Mrs May held a telephone call with Mr bin Salman on Saturday, although a Downing Street spokesperson did not reveal if the arrests were discussed.
The pair spoke about Mr bin Salman’s plans for economic and social reforms, Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, the Iran nuclear deal and the oil markets, according to Number 10.
The spokesperson said: “The two leaders reflected on the success of the crown prince’s visit earlier in the year and on the positive discussions they had during his stay.
“They noted the work that was being taken forward on education, healthcare and on Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plans more widely.
“The prime minister and the crown prince agreed that ultimately the dire situation in Yemen could only be resolved with a political solution, and welcomed the efforts being made by the UN’s special envoy Martin Griffiths on the matter.
“They discussed the humanitarian situation in the country and agreed the importance of doing everything they could to ease the suffering of Yemenis.
“The prime minister emphasised the UK’s commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the best means of preventing Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.
“But they agreed on the need to tackle Iranian destabilising activity in the region.
“As part of this the prime minister noted the importance of cooperation between their two countries to protect Saudi Arabia from ballistic missile attacks.
“Both Prime Minister May and the crown prince noted the importance of stability in the oil markets, which they said was in the interests of both consumers and producers.”
Suggestions that both Saudi Arabia and Russia could soon boost oil production have prompted recent price falls.