VS’is his first visit to Europe since the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and it passes through France: Mohammed bin Salman is having dinner this Thursday with Emmanuel Macron, angering human rights defenders and the fiancée of assassinated journalist Jamal Khashoggi .
This meeting is a further sign of the “rehabilitation” of the Saudi Crown Prince, less than two weeks after the visit of US President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia, which definitively consecrated the return of “MBS” on the international scene, in a context of war in Ukraine and soaring energy prices. Mohammed ben Salmane, who had started his mini-European tour in Greece, was expected Wednesday afternoon at Paris Orly airport, where the French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire was to welcome him, said we learned from a government source. His arrival, however, had not been confirmed Thursday morning.
Traveling to Africa, from which he will return Thursday afternoon, Emmanuel Macron will receive MBS a few hours later for a “working dinner”, scheduled for 8:30 p.m. in Paris (6:30 p.m. GMT) at the Élysée, said the French presidency in a press release. The de facto ruler of the kingdom, Mohammed bin Salman, was ostracized by Western countries after the 2018 murder of critical Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul.
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The issue of human rights will be addressed
French President Emmanuel Macron will address the ‘question of human rights’ during his Thursday evening dinner with Mohammed bin Salman, the French presidency has said, as the visit of the Saudi crown prince angers human rights defenders . “As he does every time with Mohammed ben Salmane, he (Macron) will address (this issue) in general but he will take the opportunity to talk about individual cases,” said the Elysee.
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Thursday’s visit to the Elysee Palace by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the first in Europe since the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, does not “question our commitment to human rights”, a insisted the Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne. “It is obviously not a question of setting aside our principles, it is not a question of calling into question our commitment in favor of human rights”, declared Élisabeth Borne during a trip to Châtenois, in the Vosges, while Emmanuel Macron receives “MBS” for dinner on Thursday evening, a visit which arouses the ire of human rights defenders.
The fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist murdered in 2018 at the premises of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, said she was “scandalized” that French President Emmanuel Macron was hosting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for dinner on Thursday. “I am scandalized and outraged that Emmanuel Macron receives with all honors the executioner of my fiancé,” said Hatice Cengiz on Thursday in a message written in French addressed to AFP.
“The surge in energy prices because of the war in Ukraine cannot justify that in the name of an alleged realpolitik we absolve the person responsible for the Saudi policy towards political opponents which leads to their killing, as that was the case for Jamal,” she added.
Human rights defenders shocked
The American intelligence services had pointed the responsibility of Mohammed bin Salman in the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, poisoning relations between Riyadh and Washington. If the “fist bump”, fist to fist, exchanged between the two men in Jeddah during the visit of Joe Biden sealed the return of the American president on his campaign promise to treat the kingdom as a “pariah”, the first trip of MBS within the European Union goes badly among human rights defenders.
“The visit of MBS to France and of Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia does not change the fact that MBS is none other than a killer”, lamented with Agence France-Presse Agnès Callamard, who had carried out an investigation into the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi when she was UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. And the director for France of Human Rights Watch, Bénédicte Jeannerod, tackled on Twitter: “MBS can apparently count on Emmanuel Macron to rehabilitate him on the international scene despite the atrocious murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the ruthless repression of the Saudi authorities against any criticism, war crimes in Yemen. »
Former environmental presidential candidate Yannick Jadot also criticized the visit to the Elysee Palace by the Saudi crown prince on Thursday. “On the dinner menu between Emmanuel Macron and MBS, the dismembered body of journalist Khashoggi? Climate chaos? Peace and human rights? Overshoot day? Nope ! Oil and weapons! The exact opposite of what to do! denounced the EELV MEP on Twitter.
“I believe it is important that the President of the French Republic be able to receive a certain number of those who are de facto his interlocutors (…), all the more in the context that we know, linked to the Ukrainian crisis and to the major energy issues that we have ”, pleaded, on the contrary, on France Info the leader of the Renaissance deputies (ex-LREM) Aurore Bergé.
The energy crisis, “a political lever”
Because less than four years after the Khashoggi affair, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24 caused a panic in energy prices. Western countries have since sought to convince Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude, to open the floodgates in order to relieve the markets and limit inflation. But Riyadh is resisting pressure from its allies, citing its commitments to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+), the oil alliance it co-leads with Moscow.
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In May, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said the kingdom had done what it could for the oil market. “The war in Ukraine has put energy-producing countries back in the spotlight, and they are benefiting from it,” remarks Camille Lons, associate researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “It gives them political leverage that they will use to reassert their importance on the international stage. As for Western countries, they compete in “pragmatism”, she notes. And in the face of “exploding energy prices […]clearly, human rights in Saudi Arabia are not really the priority on the agenda anymore”.