Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman to meet Emmanuel Macron in France

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to arrive in France on Sunday, where his host President Emmanuel Macron is under pressure to halt lucrative weapons sales to the oil-rich kingdom because of its bombing campaign in Yemen.

The two-day official visit comes after the prince’s weeks-long tour of the United States, Britain and Egypt, where the prince has courted business leaders and signed a host of multimillion dollar deals.

The prince's agenda for the visit to France has not been made public - apart from his dinner with Mr Macron on Tuesday - and there was speculation as to whether he would stay in a chateau he owns that has been dubbed the “world’s most expensive home.”
 
The property contains 10 bedroom suites, a grand reception room with a 52ft-high frescoed dome ceiling, a library, a wine cellar with space for 3,000 bottles, and a “meditation room” under the moat circled by an aquarium with huge sturgeon inside.

The buyer was not identified at the time, but the New York Times  reported last December that the purchaser was the Crown Prince Mohammed - known colloquially as MBS. 

The report was seen as an embarrassment for the 32-year-old prince who is preaching fiscal austerity at home while leading a major crackdown on corruption by the kingdom’s elite.

Crown Prince Mohammed is considered the de facto Saudi leader and has recently led a modernising drive in the strictly religious kingdom, which includes allowing cinemas to open and women to drive,

The French president treads a delicate line as he hosts the Saudi king-in-waiting during the visit that is expected to focus on cultural ties and investments, as well as the long-running war in Yemen, which has killed 10,000 people and left the country on the brink of famine.

Mr Macron faces fierce criticism over the export of arms to the kingdom, which has been bombing Yemen since 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition intervened to fight Houthi rebels backed by Iran, the Saudis’ arch-enemy.

"Emmanuel Macron should put Yemen at the centre of his discussions with Mohammed bin Salman as he hosts him in France," said a statement issued this week by ten international rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

They called for "the end of bombing targeting civilians and respect for international humanitarian law" as well as the "unconditional and permanent lifting on restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid and commercial goods to Yemen".

A YouGov opinion poll last month showed that three out of four French believe it was "unacceptable" to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia because of the kingdom’s actions in Yemen.

The Telegraph 

11.04.2018

  

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