Macron to receive MBS despite Saudi’s black record of human rights

French President Emmanuel Macron will host Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for talks in Paris, despite complaints that the invitation is grossly inappropriate soon after the Saudi operatives’ murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

The meeting is the next step in reintegrating the de facto kingdom’s ruler into the international community, following US Vice President Joe Biden’s meeting with MBS earlier this month.

As pressure increases over future power shortages owing to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is expected to dominate the conference.

MBS, promoted domestically as a champion of social and economic change but seen by detractors as a ruthless despot, comes to France to negotiate energy relations following a trip to Greece.

“I feel profoundly troubled by the visit, because of what it means for our world and what is means for Jamal (Khashoggi) and people like him,” Amnesty International secretary general Agnes Callamard told AFP, describing MBS as a man who “does not tolerate any dissent”.

The travels mark MBS’s first trip to the EU since the murder of Khashoggi by Saudi operatives at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018, a crime condemned by a United Nations investigation as an “extrajudicial killing for which Saudi Arabia is responsible”.

In addition, it stated that “reliable evidence” existed to support additional inquiry into the individual responsibility of high-ranking Saudi officials, including MBS.

US intelligence services concluded that MBS “authorised” the operation that led to Khashoggi’s killing, while Riyadh denies this and blames rogue agents.

Not only did the execution of a renowned opponent of the Saudi leadership provoke anger, but also how it was carried out. Khashoggi was reportedly strangled and dismembered with a bone saw on October 2, 2018, after being persuaded inside the Saudi consulate.

“The visit by MBS to France and Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia do not change the fact that MBS is anything other than a killer,” said Callamard, who at the time of the killing was the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings and led the independent probe.

His reception by world leaders is “all the more shocking given many of them at the time expressed disgust (over the killing) and a commitment not to bring MBS back into the international community”, she added, denouncing the “double standard”.

But despite the concern over Saudi Arabia’s rights record, the kingdom is seen by many in the West as an essential partner due to its energy resources, purchases of weaponry and staunch opposition to Iran’s theocratic regime.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made the oil and gas reserves of the kingdom all the more important for the West.

Callamard expressed concern that “values were being obliterated in the face of concern about the rising price of oil”.

The French president had already travelled to the kingdom in December 2021 for talks with MBS, a visit that raised some eyebrows at the time.

MBS is in charge of the country’s day-to-day business due to the ailing condition of his father, King Salman.

Macron will be meeting MBS fresh from talks with two close allies of the kingdom, UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed and Egpytian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. The red carpet welcome for both leaders dismayed activists.

Macron will also be arriving from a three-nation tour of Africa, where he visited Cameroon, Benin and Guinea Bissau, none of which are seen as exemplary democracies.

After the recent fist-bump greeting from Biden that for many symbolised the West’s re-acceptance of MBS, there will be huge interest in the body language between Macron and the Saudi.

The talks are set to get underway late in the day, at 4:30 pm (1830 GMT), and include a working dinner at the Elysee Palace. MBS reportedly arrived late Wednesday at a Paris airport and headed to a private residence outside the city.

“The war in Ukraine has put the energy-producing countries back in the spotlight, and they are taking advantage of it,” said Camille Lons, research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

“This gives them political leverage that they will use to reassert their importance on the international stage,” she added.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button