Macron dines with the Saudi crown prince, despite Khashoggi and the ire of human rights defenders

Macron dines with the Saudi crown prince, despite Khashoggi and the ire of human rights defenders

Emmanuel Macron warmly welcomed on the steps of the Élysée Palace Mohammed Ben Salman, accused of the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron. BENOIT TESSIER / REUTERS

President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Thursday, July 28 with a long handshake the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman, invited for a working dinner at the Elysée Palace in Paris, despite protests from human rights defenders . Emmanuel Macron warmly greeted his host dressed in traditional Saudi attire, and this is the first visit to Europe since the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey less than four years ago, according to the images broadcast by AFP TV.

The American intelligence services have pointed the responsibility of the crown prince, who denies having ordered the assassination even if he admitted bearing the responsibility for it as a leader. This meeting is a further sign of the “rehabilitation” of the de facto leader of the kingdom, less than two weeks after the visit of US President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia, which consecrated the return of the crown prince, nicknamed MBS, on the international scene, in a context of war in Ukraine and soaring energy prices.

In response to the anger of human rights defenders, the French presidency said Thursday that Emmanuel Macron would address the “question of human rights as he does each time with Mohammed Ben Salman”. “He will approach (this question) in a general way but he will take the opportunity to talk about individual cases”.

The Élysée affirms that this dinner is necessary, in view of the surge in energy prices, the food crisis in the Middle East and concerns linked to the Iranian nuclear program. “If we want to confront each other, to tackle the consequences of these crises on the one hand and to influence the region for the benefit of all, the only way is to speak with all the main players”, indicated the presidency.
Complaint against MBS

On Thursday, a complaint for complicity in torture and enforced disappearance in connection with the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi was filed in Paris against the crown prince, announced the NGO Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), founded by the Saudi journalist. , and the Swiss NGO Trial International.

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, said she was “scandalized and outraged that Emmanuel Macron receives with all honors the executioner of my fiancé”, in a message in French addressed to AFP. Columnist for the Washington Post, critic of Saudi power, the journalist was killed and dismembered on October 2, 2018 in the premises of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when he came to get the papers necessary for his marriage.

Hailed for its reforms, “MBS” is however criticized because of the repression carried out against dissidents in religious, political, intellectual, economic circles and even within the royal family. His image as a reformer had been tarnished worldwide by the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. If the “fist bump”, fist to fist, exchanged between the two men in Jeddah during the visit of Joe Biden sealed the return of the American president on his campaign promise to treat the kingdom as a “pariah”, the first trip of MBS within the European Union goes badly among human rights defenders.

Faced with these virulent reactions, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne indicated that it was not a question of “questioning our commitment to human rights”. “I think that the French would not understand, in a context where we know that Russia is cutting, threatening to cut and cutting off the gas supply (…) that we are not discussing with the countries which are precisely energy producers,” she said.

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