​‘I won’t be used to peddle UK arms in Middle East’ – Prince Charles

Prince Charles in Saudi Arabia, February 18, 2014. (Reuters/Fayez Nureldine)
The Prince of Wales wants to end his role as a promoter of British arms in Gulf States where possible, according to his new biography.

The unauthorized book, ‘Charles: Heart of a King’, is due to be published on Thursday. It was written by Catherine Mayer, an American-born, UK-educated, London-based journalist.

Reflecting on the biography, Mayer told the BBC there is a significant gap between the public’s perception of Prince Charles and the man behind the image.

She said her book attempts to portray the peculiarity of “Planet Windsor.”

In advance of Prince Charles’ upcoming tour of the Middle East, the biography claims the future monarch doesn’t appreciate “being used to market weaponry.”

“A source close to the Prince says he doesn’t like being used to market weaponry and now sidesteps such activities where possible,” Mayer writes.

Andrew Smith, from Campaign Against Arms Trade, said Prince Charles had admitted he used his position to “to promote UK arms sales to tyrants and dictators.”

But Smith stressed Charles’ actions in this regard “are only a small part of a much bigger picture of taxpayer funded arms export promotion.”

Smith warned while the UK government talks about promoting democracy, back-room British business deals often result in serious human rights violations.

“Unfortunately when it comes to business, human rights will often play second fiddle to the short term profits of the arms companies,” he said.

Prince Charles’ alleged concerns over his unofficial role as a marketing agent for British arms abroad is yet to prompt tangible tension in Westminster’s quarters.

But his current perspective on the matter, as unveiled by Mayer’s book, means he is unlikely to be attending arms fairs in the coming months.

Despite the Prince of Wales' recent aversion to peddling arms in Middle Eastern states, he has not always shied away from such a role.

Rumours that Prince Charles is Britain’s secret weapon in dealing with Gulf States were compounded when his visit to Saudi Arabia in 2014 was swiftly followed by a noteworthy arms deal.

UK aerospace firm BAE Systems officially announced the completion of an agreement to broker Typhoon jets to the Saudi government a mere day after the Prince of Wales departed from the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

Additionally, investigative journalist and filmmaker John Pilger previously quoted the Prince of Wales as saying in Dubai, “we’re really rather good at making certain kinds of weapons.”

And in a documentary made in 1994, Prince Charles defended his appearance at an arms fair in Dubai.

He said at the time his presence at the event helped to boost British trade.

The Prince of Wales also allegedly suggested the weapons on sale at the fair would most likely be deployed as a deterrent, and “if the UK doesn’t sell them, someone else will.”

Prince Charles is regarded by the Foreign Office as a highly valuable asset, as he has the ability to gain closer access to senior Arab officials than any minister or diplomat.

He is a regular visitor to Arab states, and travelled to Saudi Arabia last month to honor the passing of the nation’s controversial King Abdullah.

The prince has a close relationship with the Saudi royal family, ties critics say the Foreign and Commonwealth Office exploit to bolster Britain’s strategic interests.

During his upcoming visit to the Middle East, Prince Charles is set to visit five separate states in total. As part of the trip, he will meet Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed King Salman.

A spokesperson for Clarence House said the visit would not be influenced by the “sale of defense equipment,” and is essentially not commercial in nature.

He stressed Charles’ scheduled visit would focus on strengthening key relationships and “highlighting stability” in the Middle East - and that the states the Prince will visit are “important allies” and “key partners” of Britain.

The UK government’s recent decision to fly flags at half-mast over state buildings to commemorate the death of King Abdullah unleashed a torrent of criticism.

Civil liberties advocates sharply criticized the British government for commemorating Abdullah despite Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record.

Reflecting on the Saudi monarch’s death, journalist Jeremy Scahill described him as “merciless US-backed butcher and a systematic human rights abuser.”

But British Prime Minister David Cameron defended Britain’s intimate relationship with Saudi Arabia, stressing the country had aided the West in the fight against terrorism.

Cameron made particular reference to a tip-off from Saudi intelligence officers that prompted the discovery of a bomb on a cargo plane in an East Midlands airport in 2010.

The PM said the tip-off had “saved potentially hundreds of lives here in Britain.”

According to Mayer’s biography, Prince Charles’ recent aversion to promoting UK arms sales in the Middle East is being “handled discreetly.”

Senior defense chiefs have rejected the notion that Prince Charles previously aided in securing or brokering contracts on behalf of UK arms firms.

They said such a suggestion was “ludicrous” and “misguided.”

“Asking the royal family to intervene on our behalf is just not something we do and I don’t ever recall us having used Prince Charles,” a defense executive told The Australian.

“Everything that we do is negotiated through the government and the UK’s Defence and Security Organization.”