In his first visit to Europe since the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman dined with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, angering human rights defenders.
The visit is a new step to “rehabilitate” the crown prince, less than two weeks after US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, which categorically dedicated the return of “Mohammed bin Salman” to the international arena, in the atmosphere of war in Ukraine and high energy prices, according to “France”. Press”.
Mohammed bin Salman, who began his short European tour in Greece, arrived at Orly airport in Paris on Wednesday evening, where he was received by French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, according to a government source.
As for Macron, who is in Africa, the French presidency said in a statement that he would return Thursday afternoon and receive Mohammed bin Salman hours later at a working dinner scheduled for 8:30 p.m. in the Elysee.
Western countries disowned Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who criticized the authorities, in 2018 in his country’s consulate in Istanbul, according to “AFP”.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, “West embraces Saudi crown prince again despite concerns over human rights in Saudi Arabia.”
The newspaper pointed out that “dozens of Saudis have been arrested in a crackdown on political freedoms,” adding that “Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Turkey last month was another important step in the political rehabilitation of the crown prince.”
An expert on Saudi affairs at the European and American Studies Research Institute, Cantan de Pemodan, said that “Macron carried out the bulk of the rehabilitation work by personally visiting Mohammed bin Salman” in Riyadh last December, according to AFP.
Mohammed bin Salman “cast out”?
The same expert continued, “But here we have reached another level, (the crown prince) arrives in France and Macron is not present. Mohammed bin Salman is no longer obliged to move as carefully as the situation a year or two ago was not, but rather moves as he pleases.”
He added that “Macron started the rehabilitation, and Biden completed it, and between them (Boris) Johnson,” who also visited Riyadh last March.
And the US intelligence services indicated that Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, leading to the poisoning of relations between Riyadh and Washington.
Mohammed bin Salman’s first step into the European Union upsets human rights defenders, according to AFP.
“The visit of Mohammed bin Salman to France and Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia does not change the fact that Mohammed bin Salman is nothing but a murderer,” Agnes Callamard, who led an investigation into the Khashoggi murder when she the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, told AFP.
For her part, Benedict Jeanrod, director of Human Rights Watch in France, wrote on Twitter: “It seems that Mohammed bin Salman can count on Emmanuel Macron to restore his reputation on the international stage despite the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi. authorities’ harsh repression against any criticism and war crimes in To whom”.
She added that his return to favor with Western heads of state “is more shocking because at the time many of them expressed their disgust (at the killing) and their commitment not to return Mohammed bin Salman to the international community,” condemning the policy of “double standards.”
Pragmatism as a result of the Ukraine war
Less than four years after the Khashoggi affair, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 caused an insane spike in energy prices, according to AFP.
Western countries have since tried to persuade Saudi Arabia, the main source of crude oil, to increase production to ease markets and reduce inflation.
But Riyadh is resisting pressure from its allies, pointing to its obligations to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies in “OPEC +”, the alliance of oil countries it leads with Moscow.
Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said in May that the kingdom had done what it could for the oil market.
Saudi Arabia is one of the founders of the “OPEC +” alliance, an agreement that includes 23 oil exporting countries, including 13 member countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
In November 2016, this agreement was reached, with the aim of reducing oil production to improve oil prices in the market, according to “Reuters”.
The oil exporting countries of “OPEC” and “OPEC +”, together with Moscow, have been under pressure from Western powers to increase their production to calm high prices since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, according to “AFP “.
The “OPEC + alliance” led by Riyadh and Moscow confirms its desire to satisfy Russia and preserve the group’s cohesion, according to the agency.
Politico reports that the meeting comes amid an escalating global energy crisis, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The war in Ukraine has brought energy-producing countries back to the fore, and these countries are taking advantage of that,” says Camille Luns, associate researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
She added that this “ensures it a political lever that it will use to assert its importance on the international stage. As for Western countries, they compete in pragmatism,” according to “AFP”.
She added that in light of “exploding energy prices, it’s clear that human rights in Saudi Arabia are no longer really a priority on the agenda.”
Saudi Arabia holds about 17 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, and in addition to petroleum, the kingdom’s other natural resources include natural gas, iron ore, gold and copper, according to OPEC.