Saudi Crown Prince Meets Archbishop of Canterbury

Barcroft Media via Getty Images                   A Stop the War protest van on Tuesday

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday at the start of a controversial state visit, where he will face questions over his country's involvement in the Yemen war. The crown prince had lunch with the queen at Buckingham Palace ahead of talks with Prime Minister Theresa May. The Saudi delegation then met May and senior ministers inside May's Downing Street offices to launch a UK-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council - an initiative to encourage Saudi Arabia's economic reforms and foster cooperation on issues such as education and culture, as well as defence and security.

But Prince Salman's three-day visit is expected to be overshadowed by protests throughout.

The Archbishop "emphasised the crucial role that Saudi Arabia could play in protecting minorities across the world", including Anglicans "who often as a minority faith community have few advocates for freedom of religion or belief where they live".

Her statements were interrupted briefly as opposition lawmakers cried "Shame!"

The prime minister intends to use the private dinner at Chequers, a 16th-century manor house 40 miles (60 kilometers) northwest of London, to further press her concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, her spokesman said.

The Saudi action in Yemen was at the request of a legitimate government, backed by the UN Security Council and "as such we support it", she said.

May later met Prince Mohammed at her Downing Street office, extending a warm diplomatic welcome to the conservative kingdom's heir apparent and agreeing a 65 billion pound ($90.29 billion) trade and investment target.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have maintained a blockade on food and needed medicine in the Houthi-controlled regions of Yemen, resulting in a cholera outbreak and widespred hunger.

The Saudi foreign minister, Adel Al Jubeir, has responded to the massive protests, claiming they are based on a "misunderstanding" of his country's military aggression against Yemen, the poorest Arab country.

The Labour leader said British military personnel were "directing" Saudi military operations responsible for large-scale civilian casualties.

Hundreds of protesters that rallied Wednesday to oppose the United Kingdom visit of the Saudi Crown Prince are prepared for a "long struggle" against United Kingdom involvement in the Yemen war, Stephen Bell, organizer and spokesman for the Stop the War Coalition (STWC), told Sputnik.

The UK has increased its weapons sales by around 500 percent since the onset of the Saudi invasion, according to a report by The Independent.

At the same time, Britain is trying to attract Saudi Arabia for the listing of state oil giant Saudi Aramco on the London Stock Exchange.

Diplomats say the agreements could be worth more than $100 billion.

"The crown prince has overseen the brutal repression and abuse of Saudi people, as well as awful atrocities that have been carried out against the people of Yemen", Andrew Smith, head of CAAT, told Al Jazeera. London taxis display advertising graphics welcoming Prince Mohammed and electronic billboards promote the visit.

Whilst government sources heralded a successful meeting on mutual trade and renewed investment opportunities between the two nations, campaigners from multiple groups such as the Campaign Against Arms Trade and Human Rights for Yemen gathered nearby, prompting the deployment of a sizeable police presence.

The recently ascended to power, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, shared some hard words against Turkey in a recent interview to an Egyptian newspaper.

"Golden rule when coming to Downing St don't show the media the Crown (Prince's) itinerary..." Theresa May is handing a major propaganda coup to the dictatorship.

"For decades now, the United Kingdom has prioritized the interests of arms companies over those of Saudi people".