During discussions in Paris on Friday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman complimented French President Emmanuel Macron for his “warm greeting,” angering rights organisations.
In a note published by the Saudi foreign ministry, bin Salman said, “As I depart your friendly nation, it gives me great pleasure to express to your Excellency my greatest gratitude and appreciation for the excellent greeting and hospitality extended to me and the accompanying party.”
The meal on Thursday night was the most recent development in the diplomatic rehabilitation of the Saudi kingdom’s de facto ruler.
Following the death of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in 2018, the 36-year-old was shunned in the West.
The negotiations that took place overnight were anticipated to be about getting additional oil and gas supplies from the largest producer in the Middle East, but Macron’s administration made no public statements regarding them.
Western officials are courting the prince once more as they scramble to find new sources of fossil fuels to make up for decreased Russian supply.
Earlier this month, US Vice President Joe Biden visited Riyadh and received similar backlash at home as Macron did.
In contrast to Biden’s controversial fist-bump of bin Salman, Macron greeted the prince by shaking hands on the steps of the Elysee Palace.
Senior left-wing MP Alexis Corbiere said on Friday that a man whose hands were covered in blood was shaking his hand for a very long period.
The “French values”
However, the French president’s aides defended a meeting that has been widely described as an example of “Realpolitik” — the practise of prioritising expediency over morality in foreign policy.
Saudi Arabia, according to analysts, is one of the few nations in the world with the ability to raise its oil output, albeit its room for manoeuvre is seen to be restricted.
The public services minister and close supporter of the president, Stanislas Guerini, said on Friday on Europe 1 radio that “there are partners, nations who do not all share the same democratic ideals as France.”
However, he said, “I think it would be a mistake to remain silent and to do nothing.”
He asserted that the president’s duty was to “defend the French people.”
He said, “French ideals, the voice of France, and human rights were carried last night by the president.
Agnes Callamard, the head of Amnesty International, told AFP that she was “profoundly worried by the visit.”
According to a UN investigation, Saudi Arabia is accountable for the “extrajudicial assassination” of Jamal Khashoggi.
The operation that resulted in Khashoggi’s killing was “authorised” by MBS, according to US intelligence agencies. Riyadh disputes this and attributes it to renegade agents.
Hatice Cengiz, Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée, told AFP on Thursday, “I am scandalised and horrified that Emmanuel Macron is receiving with all the honours the executor of my fiance, Jamal Khashoggi.”
The French president first welcomed MBS in 2018, taking him to a Louvre art display. In December 2021, he visited the kingdom for more discussions.
According to a source who wanted to remain anonymous, the Saudi strongman spent the night at his Louis XIV Château in Louveciennes, west of Paris, which he purchased in 2015.
Despite its name, the castle was just constructed in 2009 by a business run by Khashoggi’s cousin Emad, and at the time of acquisition was referred to be “the world’s most costly residence.”