Macron, Saudi crown prince pledge to ‘ease effects’ of Ukraine war

Issued on: 29/07/2022 – 13:00

French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed “to ease the effects” of the war in Ukraine during talks in Paris, the Élysée Palace said Friday. Macron came under fire from rights groups for hosting the Saudi leader, who has been accused of being behind the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, agreed to work “to ease the effects” of the war in Ukraine during talks in Paris, the French presidency said in a statement.

“The President and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia underlined the need to bring an end to this conflict and intensify their cooperation to ease the effects in Europe, the Middle East and the wider world,” the Élysée Palace said.

Aides to the French president had indicated before the talks that Macron planned to urge Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production to help bring down global crude prices. 

With Russian oil and gas supplies either unavailable to EU nations due to sanctions or being withheld by Moscow, European countries are desperately seeking alternative sources of fossil fuels.

The Élysée statement said Macron had “underlined the importance of continuing the ongoing coordination with Saudi Arabia with regards to the diversification of energy supplies for European countries”. 

Saudi Arabia is one of few countries worldwide with the capacity to increase its output.

Russian energy giant Gazprom on Wednesday cut the amount of natural gas flowing through a major pipeline from Russia to Europe to 20% of capacity, blaming technical problems. Germany, however, called it a deliberate move to sow uncertainty and push up prices amid the war in Ukraine. 

A necessary pariah

The French statement said that Macron and the crown prince also discussed food security amid fear of famines caused by the loss of Ukrainian grain.

The dinner on Thursday evening was the latest step in the diplomatic rehabilitation of the de-facto leader of the Saudi Kingdom.The 36-year-old became a pariah in the West following the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018. 

But the prince is once again being courted by Western leaders as they urgently seek fresh sources of fuel to replace Russian supplies.

Paris was the second stop of MBS’s first European Union visit since Khashoggi’s murder following meetings with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens.

The crown prince met last week with US President Joe Biden, who was also criticised for meeting with the Saudi leader.

The talks in Paris also addressed regional crises including the war in Yemen and Iran’s nuclear programme.

“With regards to the war in Yemen, the president commended the efforts by Saudi Arabia to find a political, global and inclusive solution under the aegis of the United Nations and expressed his hope that the truce continues,” the Élysée statement said.

Yemen has been gripped by conflict since Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year. The warring parties agreed to renew a two-month truce in June as the country suffers from “unprecedented” famine, according to the UN, with some 20 million people at risk.

The crown prince on Friday thanked Macron for his “warm reception” during talks in Paris.

“As I leave your friendly country, it gives me great pleasure to express to your Excellency my deepest gratitude and appreciation for the warm reception and hospitality accorded to me and the accompanying delegation,” bin Salman wrote in a message posted by the Saudi foreign ministry.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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