Saudi crown prince kicks off official visit to Paris

Saudi crown prince's visit to focus on culture, tourism and business

Mohammed bin Salman is the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

On March 7, Britain rolls out its own red carpet for the crown prince but his three-day visit is controversial, drawing protests over Saudi Arabia's role at the head of a military coalition operating in war-ravaged and destitute Yemen.

Macron, 40, faces a diplomatic tightrope in talks with the reformist prince as he seeks to bolster ties with the world's top crude exporter, while also managing relations with the kingdom's arch-rival Iran.

"The discussions were friendly, which allowed the two men to establish a personal relationship", Macron's office said.

"It has been chose to keep working on defining Franco-Saudi entrepreneurial projects before envisaging a high-level visit", the Matignon source said.

Around 18 memorandums of understanding in energy, agriculture, tourism and culture are set to be signed at an official Saudi-France CEO Forum on Tuesday, a source close to the crown prince's delegation told AFP. He has so far met Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defence Minister Florence Pay.

"The relationship is probably the strongest it's ever been ─ we understand each other", says Trump as the young leader embarks on a almost three-week tour of the United States.

Saudi and French aides had stressed before the trip that cultural ties, as well as new business opportunities, would be at the heart of two days of talks between government and private-sector figures from both countries.

The 32-year-old de facto Saudi leader, named crown prince last year, is doing the rounds of world capitals as he ushers in sweeping reforms to liberalise his conservative kingdom and moves to stamp its regional supremacy.

Amid the flurry of announcements, campaigners were mobilised to keep attention focused on French weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and rights abuses in the country.

Saudi officials project strong ties between Prince Mohammed and Macron, both young leaders undertaking the hard task of reforming their countries, but the trip follows a period of underlying tensions.

But the visit follows a period of underlying tensions.

The US visit by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and defense minister, has been vitally important, asserted Dr. Waleed Al-Samaani, justice minister and chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council.

The challenge for Macron is to convince the crown prince that "it is better to have the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran than no deal at all", Denis Bauchard, of the French Institute of International Relations, told AFP.

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