Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, welcomes Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the presidential Élysée Palace in Paris, France on July 28, 2022. (Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Paris

An-Nahar, Lebanon, July 29

The results of the official visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to France were not surprising to observers who have followed the course of Saudi-French relations in the past two years. The official visit had a “royal” character to it, especially in terms of the warmth and hospitality of the French government.  The strong relationship between Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron, who made a daring bet a few years ago and decided to establish close relations with the Saudi leadership, stood in stark contrast to Saudi Arabia’s cold ties with the United States. Everyone remembers just how much relations between Washington and Riyadh deteriorated under the Biden Administration, before a decision was made in the White House to mend the ties, despite strong opposition from Biden’s very own Democratic Party. Some Democrat hard-liners still promote the policy of adopting the “Iranian option” at the expense of Washington’s historical strategic alliances with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners, along with Egypt. On the French side, President Macron warned against returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and reaffirmed the commitment of the three European signatories (France, Britain, and Germany) to Saudi Arabia’s security. When it comes to the thorny issue of Yemen, the French president expressed his desire to bring an immediate cessation to the fighting on the ground but also recognized the threat posed to Saudi and Emirati territory, which is being attacked by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia. Of course, the bilateral relations between France and Saudi Arabia were the cornerstone of the visit and included discussions on joint investments, including in the energy (and renewable energy) sector, which came to the fore with the war in Ukraine. What was remarkable about the bilateral talks was that they also included cooperation in the fields of culture and arts. Consequently, Riyadh announced that it will undertake the restoration of the Arab World Institute building in Paris, which represents a major landmark in the cultural relationship between France and the Arab world. The visit of the Saudi crown prince to Paris constituted an important occasion to strengthen the Saudi diplomatic reform that he has led, and comes in the context of proving Saudi Arabia’s position on the global map as a major regional power with a clear international role in a number of strategic areas. – Ali Hamada (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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