President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Thursday night with a long handshake Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was invited for a working dinner at the Elysée Palace in Paris, despite the protests of human rights defenders.
The image is expected, and it does not fail to respond. French President Emmanuel Macron warmly welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday evening, invited to the Elysée Palace for a working dinner. Dressed in traditional Saudi clothing, the Saudi crown prince exchanged a long handshake with the French head of state, for his first visit to Europe since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia consulate in Turkey less than four years ago.
The American intelligence services pointed the responsibility on the crown prince, who denied ordering the killing although he admitted bearing responsibility for it as a leader. This meeting signed little more than the “rehabilitation” of the de facto leader of the kingdom, less than two weeks after the visit of the American President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia, which consecrated the return of the crown prince, nicknamed in MBS, internationally. landscape, in the context of the war in Ukraine and rising energy prices.
A necessary interview for the Elysée
In response to the anger of human rights defenders, the French presidency said Thursday that Emmanuel Macron will answer “the question of human rights as he does every time with Mohammed bin Salman”. “He will approach (this question) in a general way, but he will take the opportunity to talk about individual cases”.
The Élysée confirmed that this dinner was necessary, due to the rise in energy prices, the food crisis in the Middle East and the concerns linked to the Iranian nuclear program. “If we want to face each other, to solve the consequences of these crises on the one hand and balance the region for the benefit of all, the only way is to talk to all the main players “, said the presidency.
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Meanwhile, on Thursday, a complaint for complicity in torture and enforced disappearance in relation to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was filed in Paris against the crown prince, the NGO Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said it was founded of the Saudi journalist, and the Swiss NGO Trial International.
Jamal Khashoggi’s boyfriend ‘scandalized’
Hatice Cengiz, the bride of Jamal Khashoggi, said for her part “scandalized and angry that Emmanuel Macron received with all the honors of the executioner of my fiance”, in a message in French addressed to AFP . “The visits of MBS to France and Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia do not change the fact that MBS is nothing but a murderer,” said Agnès Callamard, who led the investigation into the killing of Jamal’s Saudi agents. Khashoggi when he was the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions.
The fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, said she was “scandalized” that French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for dinner. #AFP pic.twitter.com/YTj9NyI5Zw
– Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) July 28, 2022
Washington Post columnist, critic of Saudi power, the journalist was killed and dismembered on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when he went to get the papers needed for his marriage.
Reform and repression
Praised for his reforms, “MBS” has nevertheless been criticized for the repression carried out against dissidents in religious, political, intellectual, economic circles and even within the royal family. His image as a reformer was tarnished worldwide by the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
If the “fist bump”, fist to fist, exchanged between the two men in Jeddah during Joe Biden’s visit sealed the American president’s return to his campaign promise to treat the kingdom as a “pariah”, the first trip to MBS within the European Union is not good for human rights defenders.
For Saudi activist Lina al-Hathloul, communications director of the human rights organization ALQST, this visit is “a blow for Saudi activists”. Lina al-Hathloul is the sister of feminist Loujain al-Hathloul, an icon for the protection of women’s rights in the Saudi kingdom, who was imprisoned for almost three years before being granted parole in February 2021. “Instead of supporting the victims of systematic violations of human rights in Saudi Arabia, Macron prefers to rehabilitate a crown prince whose abuses have been widely condemned by the international community,” said he.
It is that the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24 reshuffled the cards, due to the panic of energy prices. Western countries have since tried to convince Saudi Arabia, the main exporter of crude oil, to increase its production to calm the markets and limit inflation.
Many left-wing political figures in France criticized this visit. “Not in the Elysée, but in a police station that MBS should be welcomed in France”, thundered the deputy of the ecologist Aurélien Taché, considering that this visit casts the “shame” of Emmanuel Macron. “To women, to homosexuals, to all who saw their executioner paraded on the steps of the Élysée from Saudi Arabia, our apologies,” tweeted MP Nupes Benjamin Lucas.
To the women, to the homosexuals, to all the people who saw from Saudi Arabia their executioner parading on the steps of the Élysée, our sad apologies.
In order to sell weapons and buy oil, Emmanuel Macron sacrificed everything, necessities and symbols. Shameful. https://t.co/fwCvETEtV2
— Benjamin LUCAS (@Benjam1Lucas) July 28, 2022
Faced with these violent reactions, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne indicated that it was not a question of “challenging our commitment to human rights”. “I don’t think the French understand, in a context where we know that Russia is cutting, threatening to cut and cut the gas supply (…) that we are not talking about countries that are precise producers of energy,” he said.