PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Elysée Palace in Paris on Thursday on the second leg of his European tour.
Macron greeted the crown prince with a warm handshake as the two men posed on the red carpet for photographers before going inside to hold talks over a private dinner.
Earlier, a delegation of senior Saudi ministers — led by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Minister of State Musaid Al-Aiban — had arrived at the Elysée for separate talks with their French counterparts.
The crown prince’s visit to France follows a trip to Greece earlier in the week, and comes two weeks after he held talks in Saudi Arabia with US President Joe Biden.
The West is keen to reset relations with the Kingdom as it seeks to counter the rising regional influence of Iran, Russia and China.
France and other European countries are also looking to diversify their sources of energy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has led to Moscow cutting gas supplies to Europe.
This visit “falls within an international context that we all know, which is that of Russian aggression against Ukraine, and its repercussions on food and energy security,” a French presidential adviser said.
“It also falls within a regional context characterized by crises and threats that persist in many of the region’s countries.
“Therefore, the president will discuss the issue of the European countries’ energy supplies with the crown prince, reiterating our needs in this area. President Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will also tackle the issue of fighting terrorism, which continues to constitute a significant threat in the Middle East with its possible consequences in Europe.
“In addition, the president and the crown prince will discuss the regional crises and the need for security. Of course, the regional crises include the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. However, they also cover the situation in Yemen, Iraq and, of course, Lebanon.”
Former French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette said the crown prince’s visit was of geopolitical significance amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in the Middle East.
“This is the crown prince’s first official reception by one of the heads of state of members of the Security Council,” he said.
“It is therefore a meaningful event for the two partners who already know each other and have been able to establish useful links. “In the complicated game that is now being played out in the Middle East, it is a way for them to affirm their desire to be fully in- volved, one on behalf of the lead- ing country of the Arab states of the Gulf and the Middle East, the other representing the most prominent country in the EU.”