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Macron in Saudi Arabia to talk regional stability with Crown Prince

JEDDAH – French President Em­manuel Macron met Sau­di Arabia’s de facto ruler in Jeddah Saturday to discuss regional stabil­ity, in particular crisis-hit Lebanon, after insisting he has not ignored Ri­yadh’s rights record.

Macron landed in the kingdom’s Red Sea city after visits to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar as part of a short Gulf tour. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shook hands with Macron, who wore a face mask, wel­coming him at the royal palace before talks and a lunch together.

He becomes one of the first Western leaders to meet with Prince Mohammed in the kingdom since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in­side Riyadh’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.

The killing by Saudi agents severely tar­nished Prince Moham­med’s international image. Dialogue with Saudi Arabia was nec­essary to “work for stability in the region”, Macron said on Friday.

However, he added in a reference to the Khashoggi murder that “it doesn’t mean that I endorse anything”.“I note that Saudi Arabia had organised the G20 summit… not many pow­ers boycotted the G20,” despite the Khashoggi affair, said Macron. “We have always been clear on the issue of human rights or this case”. Ri­yadh has described the murder as a “rogue” operation, but both the US Central Intelligence Agency and a United Nations special rap­porteur have directly linked Prince Moham­med to the killing, a charge the kingdom ve­hemently denies.