Paris- Élysée Palace announced on Tuesday that the French President François Hollande will receive Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef on Friday coinciding his first official visit to France as a Crown Prince.
Official French sources described the visit as “very important” due to the French-Saudi excellent political, economic and cultural relations and their willingness to hold “further consultations and coordination” regarding all issues in light of the difficult conditions the Middle East is facing.
The French sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Paris will receive HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the “Crown Prince of a friend country, whose relation with France is strong and strategic” and as the Minister of Interior in his country, thus “a partner in facing terrorism”.
Sources added that France will receive a senior official in a very critical phase, which reveals Saudi-French relations as crucial and cooperation as essential amidst all crises and wars faced by the Middle East whether in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and in the fight against terrorism, the attempt to relaunch the peace process and providing support for the stability of Lebanon and filling its institutional vacancy.
During his visit, the Crown Prince is expected to hold talks with French President François Hollande, Premier Manuel Valls, Minister of Interior Bernard Cazeneuve and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault.
Also, Jean-Marc Ayrault is expected to meet his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir in Cairo next week; coinciding the short visit of the French Minister to Egypt in order to display Paris’s efforts aiming at relaunching the Palestinian-Israeli peace process that has been halted since 2014.
Moreover, France is planning to hold an international conference in Paris in April with the participation of European and Arab countries and international organizations and bodies, excluding the Palestinian and Israeli parties, to prepare
for the coming peace conference, which will be held with the presence of these two parties in early summer.
The French sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that President Hollande approved a plan prepared by the former Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius and adopted by the current Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. The former ambassador Pierre Vimont, who served as the Executive Secretary-General of the European External Action Service for many years, was assigned as personal representative for the French Minister to prepare for the conference and make the necessary calls.
According to these sources, Paris relies heavily on Saudi Arabia to help it launch its initiative since the latter has already launched the “Arab initiative”, which was adopted by Beirut Arab Summit in 2002. France also appreciates the predominant role played by the Kingdom in G-20 and in the region as a political leader committed to establishing peace and security.
Therefore, for Paris, Saudi Arabia is capable of playing a viral role in helping French officials provide sufficient support for the initiative and push it forward amidst the Israeli rejection, American tepidness and European apathy.
Aside from the security subjects and the bilateral cooperation between Riyadh and Paris, political issues will still prioritize the meetings attended by the Saudi Crown Prince in Paris. Regional issues will also be taken up for discussions, most prominently the Syrian issueas the two countries have a common position for a fresh regime in Syria without Bashar al-Assad.