Paris – Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made official visits to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the French Parliament’s headquarters, during his second day in Paris on Tuesday.
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova hailed the strong relations between Saudi Arabia and the international organization and expressed great interest in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, noting that possible cooperation could be achieved regarding a number of programs within the vision.
For his part, the deputy crown prince valued UNESCO’s readiness to work with Saudi Arabia and highlighted the organization’s important regional and international role in the wake of tensions around the world.
Prince Mohammed stressed his insistence on putting more Saudi sites on the List of World Heritage Sites, noting that Saudi Arabia was rich in many locations that go back to different historic eras.
On a different note, the deputy crown prince discussed with Bokova extremism among the youth who represent 70 percent of Saudi nationals. In this regard, Prince Mohammed expressed his country’s readiness to work with UNESCO extensively in order to fight this odd thinking.
Deputy Crown Prince Salman said the Kingdom was keen on assisting the international organization in preserving heritage sites in Yemen, by supporting specialized teams in reaching and surveying threatened sites, in line with a request submitted by the organization’s director general.
Permanent Delegate of Saudi Arabia to the UNESCO Dr. Ziad Aldriss said that the deputy crown prince’s visit to UNESCO reflected the Kingdom’s interest in working with the international organization to contribute to the achievement of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.
Separately, Deputy Crown Prince Salman visited the French Parliament, where he was received by Speaker Claude Bartolone. The meeting was attended by Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Ambassador to France Khaled Al-Anqari, and French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bertrand Besancenot.
Prince Mohammed also met with the French Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, which is headed by MP and former Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou, in the presence of a number of French deputies.
Discussions during the meeting touched on Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the Saudi-French relations, in addition to regional issues.
Deputy Crown Prince Salman held a separate meeting with the chairman of the Saudi-French Friendship Group at the French Parliament Olivier Dassault.
During the meeting, the officials reviewed existing friendship relations. They also discussed issues of common interest.
Prince Mohammed could not attend a meeting on Tuesday with a delegation of French businessmen due to his tight schedule. However, the meeting was attended by Saudi ministers and the president of Saudi Arabia’s General Investment Authority. Sources told Asharq al-Awsat that the meeting was “very constructive” and touched on possible investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia within the framework of Vision 2030.
In exclusive remarks to Asharq al-Awsat, French official sources said that discussions during the Prince’s visit have showed a mutual desire to boost the Saudi-French relations on different levels. They added that Saudi Arabia and France had “convergent visions” on current political affairs and armed conflicts in the Arab world.
The French sources went on to say that both Saudi and French officials were convinced that the United States’ policy in the region would witness some change with the arrival of a new administration at the White House.
With regards to the nature of relations France is seeking to forge with Iran on one side and with Saudi Arabia on the other side, the French official sources said that Saudi Arabia was an “ally and a friend”, whereas divergence in political stance and vision was present in relations with Iran. They added that France was keeping an eye on the Persian state’s policy in the region.
The same sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that French officials have admired the deputy crown prince’s openness and his desire to implement changes in his country. They added that Prince Mohammed would head to Britain, Germany and Spain following his visit to France.