BORIS Johnson has met with the United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed ahead of his trip to Saudi Arabia – but the media was barred from their discussions.

The small pool of UK journalists travelling with the Prime Minister had no access to the meeting, with coverage only granted to Number 10’s official photographer and videographer.

It comes as Johnson faces scrutiny for his effort to forge closer ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as he works to wean the UK off of Russian fossil fuels in the wake of their invasion of Ukraine.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson declares Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates 'key international partners'

Labour chief Keir Starmer has accused the Prime Minister of going from “dictator to dictator” in his search for a new energy strategy, given the two countries’ record on human rights.

Just this weekend Saudi Arabia executed 81 people, one of its largest mass executions in recent history. According to human rights organisations, the UAE has a history of violating a number of human rights including the imprisonment of those who speak out against the state, while there are also reported instances of torture in custody.

Flogging and stoning remain legal forms of punishment, while freedom of speech is heavily restricted. The UAE is not a signee of most human rights treaties.

Starmer called on Johnson to implement a windfall tax on oil producers to help bring down energy costs, rather than seek more fossil fuels in the Middle East.

Johnson insisted he would be raising these human rights concerns with the countries during his trip.

The National:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson boards his plane at Abu Dhabi airport, United Arab Emirates, for the trip to Riyadh

Asked about working with a regime with such a questionable human rights record, the Prime Minister said: “I’ve raised all those issues many, many times … since I was foreign secretary and beyond and I’ll raise them all again today.

“But we have long, long-standing relationships with this part of the world and we need to recognise the very important relationship that we have.”

With journalists excluded from Johnson’s meeting with the UAE Crown Prince, it is not known which human rights violations the Prime Minister chose to bring up.

It is currently unclear whether the media will be allowed into his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh later on Wednesday.