JEDDAH: French President Emmanuel Macron met Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler in Jeddah on Saturday to discuss regional stability, in particular crisis-hit Lebanon, after insisting he has not...
JEDDAH: French President Emmanuel Macron met Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler in Jeddah on Saturday to discuss regional stability, in particular crisis-hit Lebanon, after insisting he has not ignored Riyadh’s rights record.
Macron landed in the kingdom’s Red Sea city after visits to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar as part of a short Gulf tour.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shook hands with Macron, who wore a face mask, welcoming him at the royal palace before talks and a lunch together. He becomes one of the first Western leaders to meet with Prince Mohammed in the kingdom since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside Riyadh’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.
Dialogue with Saudi Arabia was necessary to “work for stability in the region”, Macron said on Saturday.
During his discussions with Prince Mohammed, Macron is expected to plead the case of Lebanon, where an economic crisis has been exasperated by a diplomatic row sparked in October between Beirut and some Gulf states — in particular Saudi Arabia which had blocked imports.
His efforts are likely to receive a boost by the resignation of Lebanese information minister Georges Kordahi whose remarks on the Saudi intervention in Yemen’s war sparked the row.
Macron on Friday welcomed Kordahi’s departure, saying he hopes to “re-engage all Gulf countries in relations with Lebanon”.
The French president has spearheaded international efforts to help Lebanon out of its worst-ever economic downturn.