Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Saudi Crown Prince Meets with French PM in Paris

Saudi Crown Prince Meets with French PM in Paris

Following the talks, the French prime minister gave a luncheon party in honor of the Crown Prince and the accompanying delegation.

Prince Mohammed is making his first official visit to France, which is hoping to profit from his shake-up of the conservative kingdom.

The French President is under growing domestic pressure over arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Macron, 40, faces a diplomatic tightrope in talks with the reformist prince as he seeks to bolster ties with the world's top crude exporter, while also managing relations with the kingdom's arch-rival Iran.

He was accompanied on his visit by the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Khaled bin Salman.

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He has already visited the United Kingdom and has just spent three weeks in the United States, where the prince has courted business leaders and signed a multitude of agreements to promote investments in his country that he wants to prepare for the future.

"It is a bit of a new method of cooperation with Saudi Arabia that relies less on contracts, admittedly important but intermittent, and which will translate into a common vision".

His global tour is meant to "garner recognition and acceptance as the de facto leader and next king of Saudi Arabia", Bernard Haykel, a professor at Princeton University, told AFP.

Backed by high-power lobbying and public relations firms, the prince is seeking to rebrand Saudi Arabia as a modernist oasis instead of an austere kingdom known for exporting jihadist ideology and subjugating women.

They will also formally agree on Tuesday to cooperate on a massive tourism project that showcases Saudi history, part of the prince's efforts to wean the country off a dependency on oil exports, open up its society and push social reform.

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President of the Council Mohammed Bin Laden said the volume of trade exchange between the two countries amounted to SR210 billion in five years.

No big weapons contracts are expected to be signed during the short visit of Mohammed bin Salman, but a "strategic partnership" is to be announced on Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Ten human rights organisations have asked Macron to demand that Saudi Arabia end the air strikes and lift a blockade aggravating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Three out of four French people believe it is "unacceptable" to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to a poll last month by independent research group YouGov.

And this week, 10 global rights groups implored Macron to pressure Prince Mohammed over the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen. On the agenda for his two-day stay are the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and the Iran nuclear deal.

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For Denis Bauchard, Middle East expert at the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri), "the bilateral relations are not good and MBS had a hard time being persuaded to come to France".

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