Paris (AFP) – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will make an official visit next week to France, expected to focus on culture and investments but also the long-running war in Yemen, sources with knowledge of his plans told AFP.
Prince Salman, the 32-year-old de facto Saudi leader, “will be on an official visit Monday and Tuesday, mainly to discuss culture, tourism, investment and new technologies,” a source close to the Saudi delegation said.
He is expected to arrive Sunday, though it was unclear where he would be staying.
The New York Times reported in December that Prince Salman was the owner of the opulent Chateau Louis XIV near Louveciennes, to the west of Paris — and not far from the palace at Versailles — which was purchased in 2015.
The prince has already travelled to several Western capitals since his appointment as heir apparent last June, which has ushered in a sweeping reform drive aimed at liberalising the highly conservative kingdom.
But pressure has also been rising over Saudi Arabia’s role in the civil war in Yemen, which a Saudi-led coalition has been bombing since 2015 to combat Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and restore the country’s internationally recognised government.
Rights groups called on French President Emmanuel Macron this week to urge Prince Salman to halt the bombing campaign and lift the blockade against the country, citing the devastating impact on civilians.
The United Nations calls the civil war the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 22.5 million people in need of aid.
France is a major arms vendor to Saudi Arabia and several rights groups have accused the country of doing too little to ensure that its weapons are not used in the Saudi military campaign.
Amnesty International says it has documented dozens of Saudi-led coalition military operations that could amount to war crimes due to the deaths of more than 500 civilians.