Saudi crown prince visit ends with $18bn deals, political alignment with France

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe escorts Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman upon his arrival at the Hotel de Matignon in Paris. Reuters file

"If required by our alliance with our partners, we will be there", he said, according to the French translation of his remarks spoken in Arabic.

After agreements worth billions of dollars were announced, the two leaders are expected to discuss a future "strategic partnership" expected to see new contracts signed during Macron's trip to Saudi Arabia at the end of the year. The kingdom has also loosened rules on foreign investments.

He would not comment on whether Saudi forces could join the potential intervention.

The prince´s visit follows a period of underlying tensions with France, not least with regards to Iran.

Prince Mohammed's tour is meant to project "Saudi Arabia is open for business", Bernard Haykel, a professor at Princeton University, told AFP. "We have here a young leader who is going to be in the highest functions in a country where 70 percent of the population is under 30", Macron said alongside the 32-year-old prince.

On Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has led an global military coalition since 2015 and waged a blockade that has sparked widespread condemnation, Macron stressed the need for "respect for worldwide humanitarian law".

"I can not think of a better partner for culture and art than France", Saudi Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad told AFP.

"The leadership of both countries share much in common".

On Monday evening, the Saudi heir held a surprise meeting with Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, as well Moroccan King Mohammed VI, which was revealed in a tweet by Hariri showing the three leaders smiling and dressed casually.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman and French President Macron had a private dinner in a restaurant in the Louvre museum on Sunday.

Macron, 40, is treading a diplomatic tightrope with the prince as he seeks to bolster his ties with the world´s top oil exporter while also managing relations with Iran.

Macron invited Hariri to Paris for talks and he later rescinded his resignation, a development that analysts say exposed the limits of the prince's authority.

"France believes we must preserve the structure of the Iranian nuclear deal, but it must be complemented by the work that has been done on limiting Iran's ballistic activity and its regional expansionism", he added.

The French president defended weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen but said he was concerned by the humanitarian situation, and would host a conference on the issue before the summer.

When asked about civilian casualties, the crown prince said the coalition was doing everything to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen but that mistakes were inevitable in conflicts.

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