France’s Macron holds talks with Saudi crown prince in Paris

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—Photo by AP


PARIS: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia wrapped up his first official visit to France by meeting Tuesday with President Emmanuel Macron on defense, security and economic issues ? and to share their concerns over the apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The two leaders were expected to sign agreements and hold a joint news conference before a gala send-off dinner at the presidential Elysee palace. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was invited to meet with them and to attend the dinner.

Macron and the crown prince planned to discuss a “strategic partnership” that would yield contracts by the time Macron visits Saudi Arabia at the end of the year, the French presidency said.

Also atop the agenda were the wars in Yemen and Syria; Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran; and the fight against terrorism and terrorist financing.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, speaking Tuesday to reporters in Paris, said Saudi Arabia is “greatly concerned” about the apparent chemical weapons attack Saturday in Douma, Syria, amid speculations over an eventual U.S.-French operation against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

Al-Jubeir said he wants the perpetrators held responsible. He would not comment on whether Saudi forces could join the potential intervention.

Macron called for a “strong reaction” of the international community during a phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday evening.

France traditionally has been a major arms supplier to the Saudis, but French officials said no big weapons contracts were planned to coincide with the crown prince’s three-day official visit.

Saudi national company Aramco and French oil giant Total announced a deal earlier Tuesday to build a petrochemical complex in Jubail in Saudi Arabia. In total, $9 billion will be invested, a joint statement from the company said.

Human rights groups have expressed concerns about the crown prince’s visit, and a lawyer representing one group filed a lawsuit Tuesday in France accusing him of complicity in torture in Yemen.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia and France signed agreements over cultural and artistic cooperation that include training for Saudi filmmakers and plans for the National Opera of Paris to help the Saudis create a national orchestra.

The conservative kingdom will be represented at the Cannes Film Festival for the first time next month.—AP

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