Paris – Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in France on Monday for his official visit during which he will meet with President Francois Hollande in Elysee.
Prince Mohammed will also meet senior French officials, including Premier Manuel Valls, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, and leaders of public and private sector contracting companies.
The trip to France follows Prince Salman’s tour at the U.S. where he met with President Barack Obama, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and several high profile business leaders.
According to a statement from the Royal Court, the visit to France is in response to an invitation from the French government.
On the first day of his visit, Prince Salman is expected to discuss topics of common interest and aspects of cooperation between the two countries, as well as the war in Syria, Iraq, crisis in Lebanon, terrorism, and French initiative to re-launch peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
Day two of the visit will be dedicated for economic cooperation between the two countries. Deputy Crown Prince will head the third Saudi-French Joint Committee on Tuesday and will also discuss the comprehensive bilateral strategic partnership and regional issues.
Senior officials in Paris expressed France’s willingness to participate with Saudi Arabia in peace initiatives for Middle Eastern crises. Sources believe that both Paris and Riyadh can have a role in the initiative proposed by France during a meeting attended by 20 countries and international and regional organizations last month.
Sources said the visit is one of the most important because of the numerous issues to be discussed by Prince Mohammed and Hollande.
Regarding Syria, both Paris and Riyadh support the Moderate Syrian Opposition and they see no role for Bashar Assad in Syria’s future.
As for Iraq, both sides, as part of the international coalition against ISIS, expressed their fear of the recent negative developments and violations committed by militias in liberated areas that were under ISIS control. According to French sources, both Saudi Arabia and France are committed to fighting ISIS by all means necessary.
Among the topics under discussion is facilitating the general elections in Lebanon and maintaining stability in the country.
Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited France and met with officials. During the meetings, the two parties discussed several issues along with the role of Iran in Arab affairs.
Saudi Arabia condemns Iran’s interference in Arab affairs whether in Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon or Syria.
Sources at the Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF) told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that French enterprises look forward to closely study the Kingdom’s projects and economic plans.
Sources added that MEDEF will look into possible partnerships with Saudi government on one side and the private sector on the other. This falls under the Saudi government’s will to initiate the National Transformation Plan (NTP) and facilitate procedures for foreign corporations.
Meanwhile, the new perspective of the Saudi-French relationships will create balance in investments.
Since King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s last official visit to France in September 2014, Saudi-French relationships have evolved tremendously.
A French diplomatic source told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the second meeting of the joint committee in Riyadh in October of last year showed common will to move forward with the strategic partnership.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls visited Riyadh accompanied by four ministers, including ministers of defense and foreign affairs. The meeting of businessmen of both countries was attended by no less than one thousand persons which showed the importance of the cooperation.
But between the last joint committee meeting in Riyadh and the one expected tomorrow Tuesday, an important development had happened: Vision 2030 and National Transformation Plan.
A French business official described Saudi Arabia as France’s “main partner.” He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is an important member of the G20 and World Trade Organization (WTO).
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, the official stressed two points: French openness towards Saudi economic strategy for diversification and a call on Saudi businessmen to invest in France.
He summed up his vision by saying: “You have needs, we have proposals. Let’s work together.”