Emmanuel Macron and Mohammed bin Salman deepen cooperation between France and Saudi Arabia

The French president visited Saudi Arabia on a new stage of his Gulf tour after visiting the Emirates and Qatar
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

PHOTO/Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS  -   Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss bilateral cooperation issues between the two nations as part of the French leader's Gulf tour. 

The French president met with the Saudi crown prince in Jeddah and the two discussed various issues related to cooperation between the two countries and important current affairs in the Middle East. 

With regard to the regional situation, according to various media outlets such as Arab News and Europa Press, Emmanuel Macron secured Mohammed bin Salman's commitment to normalise relations with Lebanon after the regional boycott imposed on the Lebanese country due to the controversial statements made by the now resigned Minister of Information on the war in Yemen and the Saudi and Emirati intervention in the war. 

During his previous stay in the Emirates, Emmanuel Macron pointed out that Saudi Arabia is key to defending peace and stability in the Middle East, and also to helping the French aid effort in Lebanon, a country devastated by internal conflicts and a serious economic situation.

El presidente de Francia, Emmanuel Macron
PHOTO/EUROPEAN COUNCIL - The President of France, Emmanuel Macron

Macron was previously in the United Arab Emirates and sealed a major million-dollar deal whereby France has managed to sell 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 Caracal helicopters worth $18 billion, following the agreement reached by the French president with Mohamed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi. A deal that will guarantee thousands of jobs in France over the next decade. 

The meeting between Emmanuel Macron and Mohammed bin Salman also led to the agreement that Saudi and French companies will collaborate in various sectors such as energy, finance and tourism. All of this is related to Saudi Arabia's strategy of diversifying its economy so as not to depend exclusively on oil, as part of the Vision 2030 plan. 

Emmanuel Macron stressed that Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Gulf and a key player in managing the situation in the Middle East. "Who can think, not even for a second, that you can help Lebanon, that you can preserve peace and stability in the Middle East without talking to Saudi Arabia," Macron told the media.

El hijo del rey Salman
AFP/FAYEZ NURELDINE - King Salman's son

Macron extracted a commitment from Bin Salman to resolve the latest diplomatic conflict between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon and they also discussed the situation of the war in Yemen, where the Saudi-led Arab coalition is fighting against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who are trying to undermine the legally established government, as well as the situation in Libya, where, after ten years of civil war, elections are expected to be held by the end of December to complete a necessary democratic transition after a national conflict in which different countries have meddled, taking sides in favour of the opposing sides, such as Turkey and Qatar on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Russia on the other. The Saudi kingdom's commitment to prevent the development or proliferation of jihadist groups was also secured. 

France also won another major contract of great economic significance in Saudi Arabia after the sale of 80 Rafale fighter jets to the UAE. In this regard, Saudi Arabia announced the purchase of 26 French helicopters for civilian use, benefiting the company Airbus, and also a contract with the company Veolia for the supply of drinking water and wastewater treatment in Riyadh, as reported by La Vanguardia.