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Thursday 2 October 2014

Enda courts controversy by lauding human rights approach

Donal O'Donovan Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Published 07/01/2014 | 02:30

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ENDA Kenny said he congratulated Saudi Arabia on its approach to human rights issues when he met the country's Crown Prince Salman.

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The Taoiseach's comments are likely to prove controversial back home because of Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic law.

It means women are restricted including in how they can dress, and are banned from activities that are open to men, including driving. The country also enforces the death penalty for crimes such as murder.

Asked by the Irish Independent whether Mr Kenny and his Government had concerns about relations with Saudi Arabia, the Taoiseach said he had raised the issue of human rights by offering his congratulations to the prince.

"I congratulated the Crown Prince, his royal highness, on the fact that Saudi Arabia has been invited to the human rights council of the United Nations and served there in the last number of years.

"I congratulated the Saudis on their leadership in terms of moderation here in the Gulf region and their desire for peace in light of a lot of complex issues," he said.

The comments may be a signal that Ireland and other western countries are seeking to encourage the oil-rich country to liberalise.

"Ireland obviously will work with Saudi Arabia in terms of human rights and participation on the (United Nations) council," Mr Kenny said.

Prince Salman, who is also Saudi Arabia's deputy premier and defence minister, was knowledgeable about Ireland's exit of the bailout and the growth of the economy, Mr Kenny said.

Following his meeting with the prince, the Taoiseach chaired a session of the Saudi Irish Business Council.

A significant number of Irish and Saudi businesswomen were among the guests seated around the main conference table, a rarity in the country.

Irish Independent

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