Divergent Interests: Macron vs. ‘MBS’ In Focus

France's President Emmanuel Macron greets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he arrives at presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, on June 16, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron hosts Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for talks in Paris, seeking to nudge the de-facto leader of the oil-rich kingdom into more full-throated support of Ukraine against the Russian invasion. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

The Head of State received the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, on Friday. On the menu of discussions, the war in Ukraine but also Iran or Lebanon.

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The working lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron, Friday June 16 at the Elysée, was a form of appetizer. In the midst of a diplomatic offensive, the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Ben Salman, intends to take advantage of the week he will be spending in the French capital to promote Riyadh’s candidacy for the organization of the 2030 World Expo. It is more for him, as when he came to France in July 2022, to boos from human rights organizations, to try to rehabilitate his image abroad after the murder by agents dispatched from Riyadh , in 2018, of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul (Turkey).

Although his reputation remains tarnished by this event, the young 37-year-old prince, nicknamed “MBS”, knows he is essential today and deploys all-out diplomacy in order to promote the economic interests of the kingdom and its post- oil, Vision 2030.

“The Saudi crown prince is rising, he is empowering himself from the United States, and in the Middle East, nothing is done without the Saudis. It is therefore important to see it, it is realpolitik. But should we expect breakthroughs, as on the Lebanese file? I don’t think so,” commented a person familiar with the matter.

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The tete-a-tete at the Elysee Palace between Mohammed Ben Salman and Emmanuel Macron, who speak to each other regularly on the phone, was an opportunity to take an overview of bilateral relations and current issues. The Elysée had promised that the issue of executions would be raised, after Amnesty International warned of “a frightening escalation in the already record use of the death penalty” and, in particular, the fate of seven young Saudis, sentenced to death for “so-called crimes” committed when they were minors. Executions have increased sevenfold over the past three years. In a press release issued after the meeting, the Elysée merely mentioned “France’s attachment to universal values”.

This article is originally published on lemonde.fr

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.