Prime Minister John Key has met with the Saudi Arabian king and raised the issue of human rights.

Mr Key is the first New Zealand prime minister to visit Saudi Arabia and is doing so to push for a free trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The Green Party have said such an agreement is inappropriate given the oil-rich kingdom's human rights record, and pushed for Mr Key to raise human rights including women's rights during the visit.

Amnesty International have urged Mr Key to speak out on what it said is Saudi Arabia's "abysmal" human rights record.


Mr Key met His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh.

Afterwards, Radio New Zealand reported that he did not specifically raise the issue of women's rights.

"No, I went into the wider issue of human rights. I think that's the appropriate way to handle it," Mr Key told media.

"But our foreign ministry also has more detailed conversations, and they have longer periods of time. That happens at an ambassadorial level, it happens at the foreign minister level."

Mr Key said his meeting went well, although he could not categorically say whether a free trade deal would get over the line.

"The king said he wanted to expand and develop the relationship further, he valued the relationship and he could see the merits in what we were proposing.

"So I'm pretty hopeful actually, given the purpose of coming here was to have face time, that is important in any relationship, and it does help over time."

Mr Key also met with His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif, who could one day be king, and His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is one of the world's richest royals and a high-profile investor.


He will next visit Kuwait, which is the final stage in his trade tour of the Gulf states.