Critical political developments are underway this week as French prime minister Edouard Philippe and French president Emmanuel Macron welcome the Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman to Paris for cultural and political conversations that could seriously affect Franco-Saudi relations.
This marks the first visit to France of Bin Salman, heir to the Saudi throne and viewed in his own country as a reformer with aims to modernize the Middle Eastern giant. But not everyone is thrilled by this visit, and Amnesty International protests have been taking place around Paris. Among other things on the table, a new agreement making it easier to export arms from France to Saudi Arabia has been signed, causing many to question France’s culpability when it comes to Middle Eastern instability and violence.
This would not be the first time France has gotten involved in the Middle East for its own political expediency. Former French president François Hollande maintained strong ties with Saudi Arabia during his presidency, and before him President Nicolas Sarkozy got himself so deep in Libyan affairs that he recently found himself under investigation over illegal Libyan campaign donations.
One can only hope that these meetings might lead to positive collaboration between the two leaders, and not spray Macron with the stench of collusion his predecessors have worn so poorly.