PARIS – France’s presidency on Friday focused on global warming, the war in Ukraine and the Iran nuclear deal in relaying details about the controversial dinner in Paris between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron.
In a generally celebratory communique, the presidential Elysee palace skirted over the issue of the gruesome Saudi killing of U.S.-based journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Western intelligence has determined that Prince Mohammed was complicit in the killing.
The French statement said the president and prince in their meeting Thursday “welcomed the strengthening of exchanges between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and France (and) they expressed the wish to deepen the relationship between the two countries and to continue their consultation to meet regional and global challenges, in particular the fight against global warming.”
Little was said regarding French or European energy links with energy-rich Saudi Arabia, even as Russia’s threats to cut of the European Union’s gas supplies has had European leaders scrambling for alternative energy sources. French media suggested this was the reason the prince was invited.
Macron, his office said, “underlined the importance of continuing the coordination initiated with Saudi Arabia with a view to diversifying the energy supplies of European states.”
A short phrase ending the statement said simply that Macron also “addressed the issue of human rights in Saudi Arabia.” It did not elaborate.
Macron's approach contrasted with that of U.S. President Joe Biden, who met with the Saudi prince earlier this month in Jeddah and said -- publicly -- that he told him he held him responsible for Khashoggi’s killing.
The meeting with Marcon marked another step in the Saudi leader’s diplomatic rehabilitation less than four years after Khashoggi's slaying at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The crown prince lost supporters in the West who previously had been cheering his social reforms at home. He maintains he had no knowledge of the operation, despite it being carried out by people who directly reported to him.
French government spokesman Olivier Veran on Friday defended the crown prince's visit, saying it was “part of international geopolitics” and was “essential (so that)... France makes its views, priorities, action on the international level heard."
The Saudi prince, who stopped in Greece before coming to France, is making his first official visit to the EU since the Khashoggi slaying.
Catherine Gashka contributed