Saudi crown prince rounds off U.S. tour with ex-presidents meeting

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia has enjoyed a royal welcome to France, with a private dinner in the Louvre Museum hosted by President Emmanuel Macron.

In a statement to Arab News, Scott Lucas, professor of global politics at the University of Birmingham, said, "Part of his visit will be economic, to say the least, but Saudi Arabia will also want to promote its Vision 2030 approach". "It is about forging a new partnership with France, not just shopping for deals".

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rounded off a weeks-long tour of the United States with a weekend in Texas, where he met Saturday with both former president Bushes.

"This is not a traditional state visit", another source close to the Saudi delegation told AFP.

In October 2015, France signed aerospace and military contracts worth US$12.28bn to develop transport, energy, health and food markets in Saudi Arabia.

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia is making his first official visit to France, which is hoping to profit from his shake-up of the conservative kingdom.

The powerful young prince who is behind modernising reforms in Saudi Arabia is on a three-day trip at a time when relations between the two countries have become more complicated.

"This is a signal both to domestic as well as global observers that he is in charge and can leave the country for several weeks without any challenge to his authority", he added. "They are both young, visionary and ambitious".

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But the trip follows a period of underlying tensions, with Macron seeking to bolster ties with the Arab world's biggest economy while also managing other relationships with Middle Eastern nations.

Prince Mohammed lunches with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and goes on for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May on the kingdom's reforms, trade and investment relations, and defence and security cooperation.

Amid the flurry of announcements, campaigners were mobilised to keep attention focused on French weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and rights abuses in the country.

Macron invited Hariri to Paris for talks and he has since rescinded his resignation.

Three out of four French people believe it is "unacceptable" for France to continue selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to a poll last month by independent research group YouGov.

He is set to meet French President Emmanual Macron on Tuesday.

Last week, 10 worldwide rights groups implored Macron to pressure Prince Mohammed over the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, claiming it is exacerbating a humanitarian crisis for thousands of civilians.

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