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PARIS: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Paris and his anticipated meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron is a sign of the strength of Saudi Arabia’s relations with France and the depth of the ties of their friendship.
The most significant element of the visit is the timing, in a turbulent international and regional climate and just days after US President Joe Biden’s trip to the Gulf.
The Crown Prince’s visit illustrates the desire expressed by a number of nations, including Saudi Arabia, to diversify cooperation with the rest of the world, even in areas traditionally reserved for America.
In this context, France holds a special place, given the regular and sustained relations between Macron and the Crown Prince, as evidenced by the trip made by the French leader to the Kingdom as part of his January tour of the Gulf. .
In Paris, while addressing various aspects of bilateral relations, the two leaders will review the economic partnership and ways to strengthen it in areas of mutual interest.
When they met in January, they agreed to strengthen the participation of the private sector in economic exchanges, as well as the sharing of expertise and the development of skills.
Vision 2030, initiated by the Saudi Crown Prince, and the France 2030 economic plan, are vectors of opportunities and convergence.
The respective commitments in the field of environmental protection and biodiversity will also be on the agenda.
Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will once again underline the importance of commitment to the fight against climate change on the basis of the Paris agreement. And the Kingdom’s ambitious Saudi Green and Middle East Green twin initiatives are strongly supported by France.
The visit will also be an opportunity to discuss cultural relations between the two countries, an area in which Paris and Riyadh have succeeded in establishing fruitful cooperation for the development of the AlUla region. The two leaders aim to develop collaboration, particularly in the development of museums, heritage preservation and film production.
On a more strategic level, energy security, in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, will be on the agenda. A source suggested the Saudi crown prince would give Macron reassurances about the Kingdom’s efforts to ease the crisis.
France will seek to present itself as a major partner given the American disengagement from the Middle East and the Saudi desire to diversify its partners both militarily and economically.
Talks on the Palestinian issue are a certainty and so is Lebanon, a country mired in endemic political crisis and inertia that has prevented even its closest partners from coming to its aid.
The other axis of discussion will focus on the Iranian nuclear issue and its regional repercussions. Macron argued that the solution to the impasse involves returning as soon as possible to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement signed with Tehran in 2015.
In this context, the meeting with the Crown Prince will be an opportunity for Macron to reaffirm to Saudi Arabia, and to the other countries of the region, that France is ready to participate in the elaboration of the main lines of a new partnership.
For Macron, who has just started his second presidential term, this is undoubtedly a way of initiating a new dynamic of foreign policy with regard to the Middle East region.