Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron want to “intensify cooperation” to “mitigate the effects in Europe, the Middle East and the world” of the war in Ukraine, in a global context of soaring energy prices, a statement from the French presidency. The crown prince of the kingdom, the leading exporter of crude, was received Thursday evening for a “working dinner” at the Élysée.
Emmanuel Macron and Mohammed bin Salman “stressed the need to find a way out of the conflict and to intensify cooperation to reduce its effects in Europe, the Middle East and the world”, a statement from the French presidency said on Friday. . “In this opinion”, Emmanuel Macron underlined “the importance of continuing the coordination initiated with Saudi Arabia with a view to diversifying the energy supplies of European states”.
The West seeks to convince Saudi Arabia of their oil supply
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 sent energy prices into a panic. Since that invasion, countries have sought to convince Saudi Arabia to open the floodgates in order to relieve markets. Rising oil prices are fueling inflation in the United States, which has hit 40-year highs, putting pressure on the government there ahead of midterm elections this year. However, Ryad is resisting pressure from its allies, citing its commitments to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the oil alliance it co-leads with Moscow.
In May, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said the kingdom had done what it could for oil. Last week, Emmanuel Macron received the new president of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, in Paris. The two countries signed on this occasion a “comprehensive strategic partnership agreement on energy cooperation”.
It was the first visit to France by Mohammed bin Salman, says MBS, since the assassination by Saudi agents of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A critic of Saudi power, the journalist was killed and dismembered on October 2, 2018 in the premises of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when he came to get the papers necessary for his marriage.
Exchanges on Yemen
The visit outraged human rights defenders and the left in France, who accused Emmanuel Macron of sacrificing human rights to “pragmatism” in the face of soaring energy prices. “I think that the French would not understand, in a context where we know that Russia is cutting, threatening to cut off and recover the gas supply that we are not discussing with the countries which are precisely energy producers” , justified Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, affirming that it was not a question of “challenging our commitment in favor of human rights”.
In the two-page press release from the Élysée at the end of the meeting, the last paragraph mentions this question, in lapidary fashion: “as part of the dialogue of trust between France and Saudi Arabia, the President of the Republic has raised the issue of human rights in Arabia”. Referring to the war in Yemen with MBS during the working dinner, Emmanuel Macron “welcomed the efforts”, he, of Saudi Arabia “in favor of a political, global and inclusive solution under the aegis of the United Nations”.
Yemen, the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, has been devastated for more than seven years by the war between the Houthis, rebels close to Iran, and government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition neighbor. The war left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced. A national truce, in effect since the beginning of April, has given some respite to a population facing one of the world’s worst humanitarian tragedies and a situation of near famine.
Emmanuel Macron made known “his wish that the truce be extended”, according to the press release from the Élysée.