In the shadow of Khashoggi, Macron begins negotiations with Saudi Arabia with the crown prince | WSAU News / Talk 550 AM · 99.9 FM

By John Irish

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for face-to-face talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, becoming the first major Western leader to set foot on land. kingdom since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Macron sees Saudi Arabia as vital to help build a region-wide peace deal with Iran, and as an ally in the fight against Islamist militants from the Middle East to West Africa, and stronghold against the Muslim Brotherhood.

France is one of Saudi Arabia’s main arms suppliers, but the country faces growing pressure to review sales led by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels. Iran aligns in Yemen, currently one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

While relations between Paris and Riyadh have been warmer under Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande, France has yet to reap the rewards of business. Relations have cooled in recent years though Macron, before Khashoggi was murdered, urged his detractors to give the then 33-year-old leader some time in wait.

A business delegation of about 100 companies including TotalEnergies, EDF, Thales and Vivendi will attend an investment forum during Macron’s trip.

Speaking to reporters in Dubai, Macron denied accusations he was legitimizing the crown prince, adding that many of the crises in the region could not be resolved by ignoring the kingdom.

“We (probably) decided after the Khashoggi case that we have no policy in the region, which is an option that some might defend, but I think France has an important role to play in the region. . It does not mean that we are complicit or that we forget,” Macron said.

Recent deals are few, mostly focused on the Al-Ula tourism project that aims to revive the kingdom’s Nabatean history saudi-arabia-excavate- Forgotten Kingdoms-2021-11-02 / #: ~:text=AL%20ULA%2C%20Saudi%20Arabia%2C%20Nov, kingdoms%20of%20Dadan%20and%20Lihyan , part of Saudi Arabia’s drive to diversify to revive its oil-based economy.

Macron’s visit comes at a time when Gulf Arab states express uncertainty about the US focus on the region even as they seek more weapons from Washington.

Saudi Arabia has been frustrated by the approach taken by the administration of US President Joe Biden, which pressed Riyadh over its human rights record and the war in Yemen and released intelligence /usa-saudi-khashoggi-int/saudi-de-facto-rule-approved-operation-that-leads-khashoggis-death-us-idUSKBN2AQ2OA links bin Salman to Khashoggi’s murder.

The crown prince has denied any involvement in the murder of the journalist in Riyadh’s Istanbul consulate, an incident that has sparked global outrage and tarnished the image of Crown Prince Mohammed.

Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, said: “Whether that was the goal or not, (this trip) contributes to the policy of rehabilitating the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. “It hurts me when France, the country of human rights, is the instrument of this policy.”

Macron is the first major Western head of state to visit Saudi Arabia since the killing of Khashoggi and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, which has dashed Riyadh’s hopes of a deal. host G20 leaders during their 2020 presidency.

The two are expected to discuss regional issues, including Iran and Lebanon nuclear issue -saudi-spat-2021-12 -03, where Macron has so far failed to convince the Gulf Arab states, wary of the power of Iran-backed Hezbollah, to join in trying to find a solution. France.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Will Dunham) In the shadow of Khashoggi, Macron begins negotiations with Saudi Arabia with the crown prince | WSAU News / Talk 550 AM · 99.9 FM

Dais Johnston

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