Human rights groups have criticized Emmanuel Macron’s planned meeting with Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, the first public meeting of a prominent Western leader with the crown prince since the state-sponsored killing of journalist Jamal. will mark. Khashoggi.
For the three years since the 2018 assassination, Western heads of state have avoided direct face-to-face meetings with the crown prince in the kingdom. The US president, Joe Biden, has also refrained from talking to the future monarch, which has been widely seen as an attempt to avoid legitimizing the de facto ruler.
But Macron’s move suggests that at least one major Western leader is ready to formally re-establish ties with the crown prince, less than a year after US intelligence agencies released a report. in which it was said that Prince Mohammed had approved the killing of Khashoggi.
“Whatever France’s strategic interest in Saudi Arabia, nothing can justify the legalization of a ruler who kills journalists, threatens activists, imprisons female human rights defenders, kills Yemeni civilians, and betrays the international community. Macron has reduced himself and his country to a partnership with MBS, said Agnes Callamard, a French national who serves as Amnesty International’s secretary-general.
After Macron was accused of attempting to “rehabilitate” Prince Mohammed, his office defended the meeting, telling reporters that Saudi Arabia was “a major actor in the region”, and insisting that France would “demand” with the kingdom. conversation”.
The Elysee Palace said the meeting in Jeddah was in no way to “get back in the saddle” the Crown Prince. Instead, it was part of Macron’s long-term strategy to contribute to “stability” in the region since the election of France and that the country was “a balancing force in strengthening dialogue” between countries from the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf. as” was presented.
Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Intelligence Project who formally served as an analyst at the CIA with a focus on Saudi Arabia, called the meeting “the French seal of approval for MBS and their war in Yemen.”
“Any semblance of Western disapproval of Saudi behavior in Yemen is now removed. It is a remarkable statement of France’s betrayal of the Yemeni people.”
He pointed to a recent United Nations report showing that some 400,000 children were at risk of starvation amid the conflict in Yemen, which Riedel said was a catastrophe that was largely orchestrated by Prince Mohammed himself. did.
News of Macron’s meeting coincides with a renewed effort by the Biden administration to reach out to Saudi Arabia as it sought to persuade Saudi Arabia to increase oil production.
In a statement, the National Security Council revealed that three senior US officials had traveled to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi and Qatar to discuss economic issues and areas where the US would be “partners to invest in a clean energy future”. and find ways to further collaborate to build the clean energy infrastructure of the 21st century”.
Saudi oil giant, Saudi Aramco, is considered one of the world’s largest contributors to CO2.
US officials said Biden was not expected to hold talks with Prince Mohammed, despite the outreach.
The Biden administration’s relationship with the state is under close scrutiny in the US Congress, where Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed deep disapproval of the state and called on the US to end all arms sales to the Saudis.
Human Rights Watch criticized French arms sales in the region and said Macron should speak out against human rights abuses on his trip to the Gulf, which begins Friday and will take place in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. .
Human Rights Watch said in a statement: “Macron must address the brutal 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Keeping quiet on these matters would amount to turning a blind eye to serious human rights violations.”