Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Saudi crown prince visits France to share his 'new vision'

Saudi Crown Prince visits Bush senior Saudi Crown Prince visits Bush senior
Deanna Wagner | 10 April, 2018, 15:07

Most of them, including global investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, were released after being exonerated or reaching financial settlements with the government.

Prince Mohammed's scheduled visit to the Paris-based start-up campus Station F on Monday with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was abruptly cancelled, but the two leaders were scheduled to meet for lunch.

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

Among the deals made in France was a Franco-Saudi deal to develop Al Ula, a Saudi city richly endowed with archeological remnants, which was a central highlight of the visit.

Dr Khalid Bin Mohammad Al-Ankary, Saudi ambassador to France, commented that during the visit of the Saudi crown prince, both the countries aim to search for solution of regional crises of terrorism n the Middle East and the Sahel, which implies that the royal visit is also about deepening cultural and political ties between France and Saudi Arabia.

In a trip that appears focused on tourism, culture and the arts, the prince's delegation is set to host a forum Tuesday morning with multiple French business titans, which could trigger a host of memorandums of understanding.

"This is not a traditional state visit", a source close to the crown prince's delegation told AFP.

Prince Mohammed's tour is meant to project "Saudi Arabia is open for business", Bernard Haykel, a professor at Princeton University, told AFP.

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Saudi officials project strong relations between Prince Mohammed and Macron, both young leaders undertaking challenging reforms to transform their countries.

Macron invited Hariri to Paris for talks and he later rescinded his resignation, a development that analysts say exposed the limits of the prince's authority.

"There were tensions when MBS reportedly attempted to challenge Macron in his role in the Hariri episode, but later MBS had to back down", said Abdullah Alaoudh, a Saudi scholar at Yale Law School.

In another embarrassment, a French arrest warrant was issued in December against the crown prince's sister for allegedly ordering her bodyguard to beat up a worker at her Paris apartment in 2016.

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. On the agenda for his two-day stay are the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and the Iran nuclear deal.

The Louvre was the latest prestigious historic site chosen by Macron to host and impress foreign heads of state, following Russian President Vladimir Putin's reception at the Versailles chateau and US President Donald Trump's dinner with his French counterpart at the chic restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.

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.

Demonstrators will greet the prince with protests over the Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes in Yemen to fight Iran-backed Houthi rebels.