Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman wraps up official visit to France

Vastavam web: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince wraps up his official visit to France today with a gala dinner hosted by President Emmanuel Macron, as the young leaders seek to shore up cooperation despite lurking differences.Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, previously dined with Macron at Paris’s Louvre museum on Sunday night after flying in on his first trip to France as heir to the Saudi throne.Macron tweeted a picture of the pair at the Louvre looking at the 19th-century masterpiece Liberty Leading The People by revolutionary painter Eugene Delacroix, which shows Liberty as a bare-breasted woman.

“The discussions were friendly, which allowed the two men to establish a personal relationship,” Macron’s office said.In a trip that appears focused on tourism, culture and the arts, the prince’s delegation is set to host a forum Tuesday morning with multiple French business titans, which could trigger a host of memorandums of understanding.The prince, widely known as MBS, is also expected to meet some French ministers, a source close to his delegation told AFP. He has so far met Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defence Minister Florence Pay.Saudi and French aides stressed before the trip that cultural ties, as well as new business opportunities, would be at the heart of two days of talks between government and private-sector figures from both countries.

The announcement that Saudi Arabia will make its first official appearance at France’s Cannes film festival came after Prince Mohammed dined last week in Hollywood with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, along with film studio bosses and famed American actors including Morgan Freeman.The kingdom is the lead partner in a coalition of countries bombing and blockading Yemen, where a combination of fighting, disease and food shortages has led it to be dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by the UN.

Three out of four French people believe it is “unacceptable” for France, one of the world’s biggest arms exporters, to continue selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to a YouGov poll.Macron waded into a regional crisis last November when Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri tendered his resignation on live television from Riyadh, apparently under pressure from Prince Mohammed.Macron invited Hariri to Paris for talks and he later rescinded his resignation, a development that analysts say exposed the limits of the prince’s authority.