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Saturday February 24, 2024

MBS meets Macron in Paris with Ukraine, Lebanon on agenda

Macron seeks to encourage MBS to voice his support for Ukraine against the Russia

By Web Desk
June 16, 2023
\Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives at Élysée Palace and was received by French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, June 16, 2023. — AFP
\Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives at Élysée Palace and was received by French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, June 16, 2023. — AFP

As the Russian military operation intensified in Ukraine with both sides involved in the war of attrition, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was welcomed Friday by President Emmanuel Macron for discussion in Paris where the 45-year-old French leader urged the MBS to be more vocal against Russia.  

During their talks, both the leaders exchanged views on the solution for a new leader in Lebanon.

The visit of the Saudi leader came less than a year after his last visit to the Elysee Palace and underlines the warm relationship between Paris and Riyadh 

the 37-yea-old leader of the oil-rich country is also likely to attend a Paris summit on a New Global Financing Pact hosted by Macron on June 22-23. 

According to the French presidential official, Paris wanted MBS to understand the scale of the Ukraine conflict and help speed up the final outcome of the war, which means a victory for Ukraine on the ground. 

"We are going to tell him how important the Ukraine issue is and how Saudi Arabia can exert influence, including on Russia," added the official.

Riyadh has been taking steps cautiously when it comes to the Ukraine issues, as it did not condemn the Russian special military operation that commenced on February 2022, however, emphasising the territorial integrity of Kyiv. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was hosted last month by the kingdom's de facto leader in Jeddah during an Arab League summit as the president made a surprise stop in the Arab country. 

On Monday, he will also attend an official Saudi reception for Riyadh's candidacy to host Expo 2030, a bid for which Saudi Arabia wants the French back.

Saudi Arabia also maintains close ties with Russia through Moscow's involvement in the expanded OPEC+, which controls global oil supply and demand.

President Macron is expected to encourage MBS to use his country's influence among supporting factions in Lebanon to break the deadlock that has prevented the country from choosing a new president. 

The French leader has also named his former foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as his personal envoy for Lebanon in a new big to end the political crisis.

Concurrently, UAE's President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MBZ) and an ally of MBS, with a similar position on Ukraine, was holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an economic forum in Saint Petersburg.

Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran are also in the throes of an unexpected Beijing-mediated rapprochement, that has caused huge interest among Western governments still seeking to revive a 2015 deal on the Iranian nuclear programme.

"In Saudi Arabia's normalisation with Iran, there is potential for easing tensions in the region," said the French official, expressing hope it could also smooth the path to an election of a Lebanese president.