Mohammed bin Salman will meet French President Emmanuel Macron for a ‘working dinner’ in Paris on Thursday (28 July), elevating controversy over human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, and Macron’s obvious complacency about dealings with autocratic leaders.
French authorities have been quiet over the Saudi Crown’s go to till late yesterday. The Saudi overseas ministry had overtly confirmed that each leaders would meet “to change views on bilateral relations and methods to strengthen them in varied fields, and to debate problems with frequent curiosity.”
Bin Salman has seen diplomatic ties with the western world wither following the assassination of political journalist and regime critic Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Khashoggi was discovered dismembered on the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Studies from US intelligence companies discovered that Bin Salman had personally “accepted” the killing of the journalist, inflicting worldwide outcry.
On the time, Macron known as for worldwide sanctions towards the perpetrators, and expressed “profound indignation”.
A “prince of disgrace”
The thawing of worldwide relations, despite the brutal killing, has been the supply of a lot controversy in France over the previous 24 hours.
Bin Salman is a “prince of disgrace, a murderous prince, a near-king who represses and murders,” Amnesty Worldwide Secretary Normal Agnès Callamard wrote in a Twitter thread.
“The rehabilitation of the murderous prince can be justified in France and in the USA by arguments of realpolitik. In opposition to hovering oil costs, file inflation, outcomes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – what can our human rights arguments do?” she requested.
Trial Worldwide introduced earlier on Thursday it had filed a prison criticism towards bin Salman in France alongside Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) organisation and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) – on the grounds that the prince had taken an energetic half in Khashoggi’s killing.
Earlier this yr, different human rights organisation lodged a case earlier than a Paris courtroom towards French arms firms accusing them of being complicit in “alleged battle crimes and crimes towards humanity in Yemen” by promoting arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Macron had already been below heavy hearth from opposition and human rights teams over thes state go to of Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates in mid-July.
“Macron will reiterate the significance of human rights”, an official supply advised EURACTIV, refusing to enter the small print of which particular circumstances can be raised at dinner.
Oil, fuel and arms
“The actions of human rights organisations are greater than mandatory, however at the moment’s dinner between Macron and bin Salman can be one among realpolitik, within the context of energetic survival”, Sébastien Boussois, an knowledgeable on EU-Center East relations advised EURACTIV.
Oil costs have soared in France and the EU for the reason that begin of the battle in Ukraine.
OPEC international locations, of which Saudi Arabia, the world’s third-largest oil exporter, is a significant participant, have been requested by the EU to assessment costs since February – with little outcomes thus far. Oil manufacturing is because of be excessive on the agenda on the dinner.
The identical goes for fuel, as EU international locations search different fuel suppliers to offset Russia’s discount in fuel provision. Saudi Arabia has got down to turn into a pure fuel exporter, as a part of its ‘Saudi 2030’ funding plan.
“European international locations are caught between a rock and a tough place as they want to decide on between Russia and Gulf international locations as their predominant power suppliers. Realpolitik will dominate, and France will flip to the Saudis to finest put together for this winter”, added Boussois.
Final December, Macron made makes an attempt to revive diplomatic ties with bin Salman, turning into the primary Western chief to satisfy him in Jeddah. US President Joe Biden additionally met the crown prince in mid-July throughout a diplomatic journey to the Center East to debate power provision.
Saudi Arabia has additionally been a key accomplice to the French arms trade, and bought greater than €700 million of French arms in 2021, in line with the media outlet The Dialog’s calculations. This represents 18.4% of all French arms gross sales.
The ‘Saudi Imaginative and prescient 2030’ funding plan units out the nation’s efforts to diversify away from its oil-specific financial system.
“Saudi Arabia doesn’t have the cash to satisfy its ambition. That’s why it’s reluctant to extend oil manufacturing and see the worth of oil fall. Securing French investments is one other approach for money to circulation into these new tasks”, Boussois defined.
“We intend to strengthen the financial ties between each our international locations”, the official supply stated. Conversations over France’s participation within the Saudi sovereign wealth fund are as a result of happen, following on a gathering between Macron and the Fund’s consultant on the Select France summit earlier this month.
Previous to his Paris arrival, bin Salman was on a state go to to Greece, the place power and knowledge transfers issues have been raised, together with a knowledge switch cable mission often known as the East to Med Knowledge Hall, which might run from Saudi Arabia to Greece, with the potential for being prolonged to Malaysia and Italy or France.
Different matters of dialog embody political instability within the area and cooperation in Yemen and Lebanon.