Mohammed bin Salman begins his first European tour since the Khashoggi affair

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman preceded a two-day official visit to Greece on Tuesday before a stopover in France. This is his first trip to the European Union since the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mohammed bin Salman back on European soil. The Saudi crown prince on Tuesday July 26 caused his first trip to the European Union since the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with a two-day official visit to Greece before a stopover in France on Thursday.

Mohammed ben Salmane, known as MBS, must discuss with “the leaders of Greece and France the bilateral relations and the means of strengthening them in various fields”, a writing by the official agency SPA quoting a press release from the royal court .

Accompanied by three ministers and a large delegation of entrepreneurs, MBS arrived in Athens on Tuesday evening and met with the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mistotakis, before signing agreements on maritime transport, energy , defense technologies, waste management and culture.

“Relations between the two historic countries are and we will have the opportunity to finalize” a series of projects received, said MBS at the start of his meeting with Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Among them is the installation of an electric cable which connects Saudi Arabia to Greece and will make it possible to supply Europe with much cheaper energy, underlined MBS.

He also spoke about cooperation on hydrogen technologies and the plan to transform Greece into “Europe’s hub for this technology”.

Discussions between the two leaders further focused on a proposed data transfer cable between Saudi Arabia and Greece, which “will be transformed into a regional hub between Europe and Asia”, added officials. Greek diplomatic sources.

This visit comes less than two weeks after that of the American president, Joe Biden, in Saudi Arabia, which has totally the return of the crown prince on the international scene, in the context of the war in Ukraine and the soaring prices of the energy.

“Highly symbolic” visit

The kingdom’s de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, was ultimately ostracized by countries after the 2018 murder of critical Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul.

The American intelligence services have highlighted the responsibility of MBS, poisoning relations between Riyadh and Washington.

The “fist bump”, fist to fist, exchanged between the two men in Jeddah during the visit of Joe Biden sealed the abandonment by the American president of his campaign promise to treat the Saudi kingdom as an “outcast”, because of the Khashoggi case and its human rights violations.

The crown prince’s visit to Europe is also “highly symbolic” after this period of isolation, commented Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, research fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

Although there has been no co-ordinated stance against MBS, “the fact is that it has not required any European or North American country” since 2018, he added.

King Salman’s son recently received a boost from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Saudi Arabia in April and then hosted him in Ankara in June.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, countries have sought to convince Saudi Arabia, the top crude exporter, 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.

Riyadh is resisting pressure from its allies, however, citing its commitments to the Organization of 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, French President 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”.

With AFP


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