Saudi crown prince kicks off official visit to Paris

Saudi crown prince kicks off official visit to Paris

Saudi crown prince kicks off official visit to Paris

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince kicked off his official visit to France April 8, part of an image-building global tour as he seeks to revitalise cultural and investment ties with Paris despite lurking tensions.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman dined with President Emmanuel Macron at Paris’s historic Louvre museum after flying in on April 8 on his first trip to France as the heir to the Saudi throne.

Macron, 40, faces a diplomatic tightrope in talks with the reformist prince as he seeks to bolster ties with the world’s top crude exporter, while also managing relations with the kingdom’s arch-rival Iran.

A scheduled visit to the Paris-based start-up campus Station F along with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was abruptly cancelled, but the two leaders are set to meet for lunch on Monday.

The 32-year-old prince, who spearheads the kingdom’s armed forces, is also set to meet French Defence Minister Florence Parly.

Campaigners are mobilizing to denounce French weapons exports to Saudi Arabia despite the kingdom’s role in the long-running war in Yemen, dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Three out of four French people believe it is “unacceptable” to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to a poll last month by independent research group YouGov.

Amnesty International took out a full-page advertisement in the Liberation newspaper on April 9, featuring the feet of an executed prisoner, which urged Macron to talk about human rights with Prince Salman.

It reminded readers that the Arab kingdom carries out the third-highest number of executions worldwide.