French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, becoming the first major Western leader to visit the country since the assassination of Saudi journalist and ‘Washington Post’ columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
President Emmanuel Macron met with the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as part of his tour of the Gulf.
At the center of the discussions between the two leaders are the stalemate in the nuclear talks with Iran and the crisis in Lebanon. Following this meeting, the French president announced a joint initiative by France and Saudi Arabia in favor of Lebanon to “allow the country to emerge from the crisis.”
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi sparked international outrage that continues to resound. But Macron said it was impossible to engage with the region by ignoring the powerful Saudis.
“Who can think for a second that we can help Lebanon and preserve peace and stability in the Middle East if we say: ‘We are not going to talk to Saudi Arabia, the most populous and most powerful country in the Gulf’?” He told journalists in Dubai, the first stop on their tour.
The last stage of an express visit to the Persian Gulf
After the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, Saudi Arabia was the third step on the French president’s tour. A two-day trip, focused on economic relations but also on France’s political, diplomatic and strategic positioning on various regional issues.
First highlight: the signing of an agreement by the United Arab Emirates to acquire 80 Rafale aircraft and 12 helicopters, an unprecedented multimillion-dollar order and a sale that is part of the objective of “working for the stability of the region” according to statements of Macron, after expanding economic collaboration and cooperation in the fight against terrorism between countries.
Three years after Khashoggi’s murder, no one has been tried
On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to file the paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. According to US and Turkish officials, a waiting squad of Saudi hitmen strangled him and dismembered his body, which has never been recovered.
In this case, the various investigations by journalists, UN agencies and the CIA have implicated Prince Mohamed bin Salman, who denies it. Since then, the international image of the strongman of Saudi Arabia has been greatly tarnished by the matter.
In an interview with France 24, Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz called on the United States to take action against the crown prince and expressed her hope that world powers would change their way of dealing with Riyadh.
With AFP and Reuters