PARIS: France and Saudi Arabia were aligned on counter-terrorism, Syria, and the importance of cultural exchanges, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron said at a joint press conference on Tuesday at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Macron said the two countries had tactical differences on how to deal with the Iran nuclear deal, but they agreed on the need to curb Tehran’s regional expansionism, and France refused to accept its ballistic attacks on Saudi Arabia.
The two countries’ “strategic vision means reducing all the projects of expansionist political Islam which could feed other forms of terrorism and destabilize the region,” Macron said.
On Yemen, he defended French weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition, but said he was concerned by the humanitarian situation and would host a conference on the issue in Paris.
“Between now and the summer, a joint conference will be held on Yemen to clarify what is being done and what needs to be done,” he said.
On Syria, Macron said France would target the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities if it decided to respond to the chemical gas attack on the city of Douma. The crown prince said Saudi Arabia would not hesitate to take part in military action in Syria with its allies, if it was called for.
The crown prince restated Saudi concerns about the 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program. “We do not want a repeat of an agreement that took place in 1938, which resulted in a second world war,” he said.
What would happen if we reached 2025 and Iran was close to developing a nuclear weapon, he said.
After a three-day royal visit during which France and Saudi Arabia agreed to major cultural exchanges, companies from both countries also signed draft deals worth $18 billion.
The agreements cover sectors including petrochemicals, water treatment, tourism, health, agricultural and cultural activities, and include a $9 billion deal between Aramco and Total to build a petrochemical complex in the Kingdom.
The plant will be built at Jubail, and is expected to produce 8,000 new jobs in the Kingdom.
The crown prince and Macron were expected to sign other agreements before a send-off dinner.
They planned to discuss a “strategic partnership” that would lead to contracts by the time Macron visits Saudi Arabia at the end of the year, the French presidency said.