Saudi Crown Prince to sign major deals in Paris

Trip is set to focus on cultural ties and investments as well as the war in Yemen

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman welcomed by former U.S. President George W. Bush at the family residence in Houston.


Paris: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince arrives in France Sunday on the next leg of his global tour.

The trip is set to focus on cultural ties and investments as well as the war in Yemen, dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

It follows a coast-to-coast tour of the United States as well as Britain and Egypt, where he courted multimillion dollar deals, from defence to entertainment.

Around 14 memorandums of understanding in energy, agriculture, tourism and culture are set to be signed between French and Saudi organisations, a source close to the crown prince’s delegation told AFP.

A Franco-Saudi cooperation deal to develop Al Ula, a Saudi city richly endowed with archeological remnants, is also expected to be a central highlight of the visit, he added.

Aside from meetings with the French president, prime minister and trade officials, Mohammad is also considering a visit to the Paris-based tech startup campus Station F and a concert in southern Aix-en-Provence, the source said.

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

“It is about forging a new partnership with France, not just shopping for deals.”

Macron’s office said the trip would also focus on investment in the digital economy as well as renewable energy, as the oil-rich kingdom invests billions of dollars in the sector in a bid to diversify.

Mohammad seeks to show “Saudi Arabia is open for business,” Bernard Haykel, a professor at Princeton University, told AFP.

“He is marketing Saudi Arabia as a strategic and business partner to the West and a force of stability in the region, as compared to rival Iran which he presents as a destabilising force,” he added.

The 32-year-old prince has used his global tour to project his reforms including the historic lifting of a ban on women driving, cinemas and mixed-gender concerts, following his public vow to return the kingdom to moderate Islam.

Backed by global lobbying and public relations firms, the prince is seeking to rebrand Saudi Arabia from an austere kingdom to a modernist oasis.

Saudi officials project strong ties between Prince Mohammad and French President Emannuel Macron, both young leaders undertaking challenging reforms to transform their countries.

“Saudi Arabia is not resetting diplomatic ties with France,” a source close to the Saudi government told AFP.

“The leadership of both countries share much in common. They are both young, visionary and ambitious.”

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