A Conservative MP who is an advocate of Saudi Arabia says it’s “regrettable” they persecute gay people.

Daniel Kawczynski – who revealed he is in a same-sex relationship in 2013 after separating from his wife – is known for his passionate defence of the country, a key ally of the UK.

In the past, he has repeatedly rebuffed calls for the government to scrap deals with Saudi Arabia over human rights abuses.

Appearing on Channel 4 News, Mr Kawczynski reacted to criticism of a string of executions in the country, which opponents claim were targeted at the government’s Shia opponents.

He defended the country, claiming one of the executed Shia clerics country had been “convicted of plotting terrorist activities within Saudi Arabia”.

He added: “It’s very difficult to know who is telling the truth. This is what the Saudis are telling us.

“I think it’s very easy to make these statements when many people who are critical of Saudi Arabia and their judicial process and their motives haven’t visited Saudi Arabia.”

Krishnan Guru-Murthy asked: “What about their hatred of homosexuality?”

Mr Kawczynski replied: “I think that is very regrettable and highly reprehensible.”

However, he insisted: “It’s important to engage with both countries [Iran and Saudi Arabia] no matter how unpalatable certain domestic actions may be.”

Last year, Saudi Arabia insisted that the United Nations remove all mention of global LGBT rights from its global goals.

There are no legal protections for LGBT people in Saudi Arabia, and Britain and the US have often been criticised for being close to the oil-rich nation where gay people face being stoned to death.

In October 2007 two men were publicly flogged in Saudi Arabia after being found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to 7,000 lashes.

Due to the Saudi justice system, it is often difficult to differentiate people who are persecuted for their sexuality from those guilty of other crimes.