Sun, 2018-04-08 23:25
Paris: Saudi Arabias Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in France on Sunday on the fourth leg of his international tour for a stop that will focus on building relations over culture and tourism.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian received the crown prince at the Paris Le-Bourget Airport. The Saudi Ambassador to France, Dr. Khalid Al-Anqari, and French Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Francois Gouyette were also present.
The crown prince arrived from his three-week tour of the US, which finished in Houston where he met former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. While in America he met US President Donald Trump and political leaders in Washington, finance chiefs in New York and the CEOs of the tech and entertainment worlds on the West Coast.
In France, the visit will include business events and a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, a similarly young and ambitious leader keen on radical reforms.
But the main focus will be on culture and tourism as the Kingdom looks to tap into French expertise to help develop its archaeological sites and preserve its heritage.
Details of a collaboration between the two countries over the ancient site of Al-Ula, which contains the Madain Saleh tombs are expected to be announced during a high-profile gala dinner.
Several other cultural events have also been arranged to coincide with the visit.
The Misk Foundation, the crown princes philanthropic organization to develop arts and culture, is holding a two-day event at one of the most famous museums in the French capital, the Arab World Institute. The event will include an art exhibition, a virtual reality film and cultural performances.
The Kingdoms General Culture Authority has organized a cultural event that lasts for three days starting on Monday and will showcase films, exhibitions and performances from young Saudi artists at the Palais de Tokyo.
On Tuesday, the crown prince will meet with Macron at the Élysée Palace, when the two men are expected to discuss a range of issues, including Syria, the war in Yemen and Iranian influence in the region.
France has taken a tougher line on Iran since Macron became the president and has strongly condemned Tehrans ballistic missile program.
Around 18 memorandums of understanding in energy, agriculture, tourism and culture are set to be signed at an official Saudi-France CEO Forum on Tuesday, a source close to the crown princes delegation told AFP.
“This is not a traditional state visit,” another source close to the Saudi delegation told AFP. “It is about forging a new partnership with France, not just shopping for deals.”
Macrons office said the trip would also focus on investment in the digital economy as well as renewable energy, as the worlds top crude exporter pumps billions of dollars in the sector in a bid to diversify its economy.