RIYADH: Key regional issues will top the agenda of talks between French President Emmanuel Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who will arrive in Paris late on Sunday.
The two leaders will also explore ways to forge a new strategic partnership, especially in the fields of security, energy, trade and investment.
Mounir Slimani, a spokesman for the French Embassy in Riyadh, told Arab News: “The crown prince will visit France on April 9 and 10, where he will meet with French President Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, as well as Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and a few other high-ranking officials.” This will be his first visit to France as heir to the Saudi throne.
Asked about the itinerary of the crown prince in France, the embassy’s spokesman said he “will visit Paris’ start-up hub ‘Station F’ and meet several CEOs of French companies.”
Slimani, quoting a French presidency statement, said: “France wants a new cooperation with the Kingdom, concentrating less on contracts and more on investing in the future, especially in digital and renewable energy, with a common vision.”
He added: “Culture, heritage, tourism, investment and new technology are also on the agenda of discussions of Crown Prince Mohammed and his official delegation.” To this end, it is important to note that a Franco-Saudi cooperation deal to develop Al-Ula, a Saudi city 380 km north of the holy city of Madinah, is likely to be signed during the visit. The city, rich in archaeological remnants, was capital of ancient Lihyanites.
Commenting on the visit of the crown prince to France as part of a multi-nation international tour, Mohammed Al-Khunaizi, a Shoura Council member, said his meeting “with top French leaders and business gentry will support Vision 2030... The focus of the visit is more on expanding cooperation in different areas including defense, security, digital economy, renewable energy and investment ties.”
“In fact, the tour of Crown Prince Mohammed is more focused on security, economy and business,” said Dr. Ibrahim Al-Qayid, a founder member of the Riyadh-based National Society for Human Rights.
He said that the crown prince has lent all his support to “encourage entrepreneurship and foreign investment, and privatize state-owned industries... The crown prince’s support to women with an aim to integrate them into the workforce has started paying dividends.”
On the commercial front, he said, the Kingdom and France have forged closer ties. “France ranks as the third largest investor in Saudi Arabia with its total cumulative investment exceeding $15 billion today,” said Abdulrahman Al-Mehlafi, a financial expert. He further pointed out that more than 80 French companies have a substantial presence in the Kingdom.