Saudi Crown Prince on Global Tour Reaches France

Saudi Crown Prince on Global Tour Reaches France

Saudi Crown Prince on Global Tour Reaches France

Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, arrived here on Wednesday evening on a state visit to Spain.

On Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has led an worldwide military coalition since 2015 and waged a blockade that has sparked widespread condemnation.

Before the trip, Saudi and French officials stressed that cultural ties, as well as new business opportunities, would be at the heart of the talks between government and private-sector figures from both countries.

Asked whether France might consider following Germany's recent decision to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia, an Elysee source last week said French arms sales were subject to strict case-by-case approval procedures which considered concerns for civilians.

"If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present", Prince Mohammed confirmed.

Almost 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition joined the Yemen war in 2015, triggering what the United Nations has called the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

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"With a rich tradition of storytelling, Saudi Arabia is embarking on the development of a sustainable and dynamic (film) industry", Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad said in a statement sent to AFP on Monday.

After a tense first exchange between the two leaders in Riyadh last November that was dominated by a difference of opinion on how to handle Riyadh's regional rival Iran, Macron and Prince Mohammed sought to get to know each other and work on what they have in common rather than their differences.

Three out of four French people believe it is "unacceptable" to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to a poll last month by independent research group YouGov.

Prince Mohammed, 32, and President Emmanuel Macron, 40, both paint themselves as champions of their nations' plugged-in youths with a modernising message that has resonated strongly with younger Saudis and French citizens.

Prince Mohammed on Monday pulled out of touring a mega-campus for tech startups in Paris, an official in the French prime minister's office said - a visit that was meant to highlight deepening Franco-Saudi technology ties.

"Since the start of the conflict in Yemen, France has adopted a very specific process whereby all sales of military equipment are analysed on a case-by-case basis and on the basis of reinforced criteria that reflect respect for global humanitarian law and the risk of harm to civilian populations", Macron said. Macron is only eight years older than the prince.

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