Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, traveled to France on Wednesday to meet with President Emmanuel Macron.
“The purpose of the meeting is for Paris to seek increased support from the oil-rich kingdom in addressing the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Macron’s office stated that the two leaders will discuss the war in Ukraine and its global ramifications during a lunch at the Elysee Palace on Friday.”
“MBS is no stranger to France, as he owns the luxurious Chateau Louis XIV near Versailles, which resembles French imperial palaces. His visit may extend for several days, with plans to attend the Paris summit on a New Global Financing Pact hosted by Macron on June 22-23. Additionally, he will participate in an official Saudi reception on Monday in support of Riyadh’s bid to host Expo 2030.”
“The trip highlights the already close ties between France and the resource-rich Gulf nation. Prince Mohammed and Macron previously discussed the Ukraine conflict during MBS’s official visit to Paris in July 2022, expressing their desire to collaborate in mitigating the impact on other countries caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
“While Prince Mohammed oversees ambitious social and economic reforms in Saudi Arabia, he faces criticism regarding human rights issues within the kingdom. Macron is likely to face pressure to address these concerns during their talks. Macron’s 2021 visit to Saudi Arabia was met with criticism from France’s left-wing opposition and human rights defenders, who accused him of compromising principles in light of soaring energy prices in Europe due to the Ukraine invasion.”
“Macron’s objective is to garner support from non-aligned countries to exert pressure on Russia to end the conflict in Ukraine. In May, Macron provided a French government jet to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, allowing him to attend the G7 meeting in Japan and an Arab League summit. Macron characterized Zelensky’s trip as a “real turning point,” emphasizing the significant support received from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf powers. Regional stability, including the crisis in Lebanon, where Saudi Arabia holds significant influence, is likely to be discussed during the meeting. Macron aims to assist Lebanon in overcoming its political deadlock.”
“Denis Bauchard, a Middle East expert at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), suggests that the failure of Lebanese lawmakers to elect a new president provides an opportunity for Macron and MBS to assess the situation and find a way forward. Bauchard believes that the reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran could potentially help ease tensions in Lebanese politics through Iran’s influence over the Hezbollah movement.”
“Other topics that may be on the agenda include Iran’s role in resolving the conflict in Yemen and concerns regarding Tehran’s nuclear program. The New Financing Pact summit will also demand Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic ties and financial resources to address global issues such as climate change, poverty alleviation, and biodiversity conservation, according to the Elysee’s statement.”