French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Saudi Arabia this morning to hold direct talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
As part of this tour, which is the first visit of a major Western leader to the kingdom since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, a business delegation of about 100 companies, including Total Energy, EDF and “Edph”, is scheduled to participate. Thales and Vivendi, at an investment forum.
During an interview with reporters in Dubai, Macron had rejected accusations that he was legitimizing the crown prince, adding that the multiple crises facing the region could not be addressed by ignoring the kingdom.
He explained, “We can decide after the Khashoggi case that we do not have a policy in the region, which is an option that some can defend, but I think that France has an important role in the region. It does not mean that we are complicit or that we are forgetting.”
According to “Reuters”, Macron considers Saudi Arabia important to help conclude a peace agreement that includes the region with Iran, as he views it as an ally in the battle against Islamist militants from the Middle East to West Africa, and a bulwark against the Muslim Brotherhood, as France is one of the main arms suppliers. The kingdom, however, is facing mounting pressure to reconsider its sales due to the conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen, which is mired in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Reuters indicated that the two leaders are expected to discuss regional issues, including the Iranian nuclear issue, as well as Lebanon, where Macron has so far failed to persuade Gulf Arab states, concerned about Hezbollah’s influence, to engage in dialogue to try to find a solution.