French President Macron’s visit to Saudi Arabia signals a new era in French Saudi cooperation ahead of the inaugural Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.
A joint statement covering a wide range of issues and the signing of mutual cooperation agreements were the highlights of a visit to Saudi Arabia by French President Emmanuel Macron during the final leg of a two-day Gulf tour.
This is a major step in mending global relationships, since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Despite all the criticism of Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, he has ploughed on with leading Saudi Arabia through a transformation for Vision 2030, that has caused unrest with the Salafi hardliners in the country and global pressures to ‘westernise the country’.
Although legally it is distanced itself from the Newcastle takeover, the acquisition of Newcastle FC and the first Saudi Arabia grand Prix and the heavyweight boxing fights are all aimed at repairing the image of the Kingdom in western perception. Paving the way for agreements like the French Saudi cooperation.
The agreements related to economic cooperation were announced by Saudi and French companies on Saturday while Macron held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The crown prince met Macron at Al-Salam Palace, where they discussed bilateral cooperation and held a telephone call with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Relations between Saudi Arabia, one of the most powerful and influential countries in the region, and Lebanon were already strained when the diplomatic spat erupted.
Lebanon’s information minister, whose criticism of the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen caused a major rift with Gulf states, has resigned.
George Kordahi said he was doing so in “the interests of my country and my people”.
Comments he made weeks ago outraged Saudi Arabia, which expelled Lebanon’s ambassador and banned its imports, dealing a blow to its ailing economy.
Lebanon pivotal to Saudi & French cooperation
The three countries agreed to work together to support comprehensive reforms necessary in Lebanon, according to official reports, which added that Saudi Arabia and France emphasized their keen desire to see security and stability prevail in the country.
“The two sides stressed … that reforms should include the sectors of finance, energy, combating corruption and border control. The two sides also agreed to work with Lebanon to ensure the implementation of these measures,” the joint statement, carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) and reported by Sawt Asharq News.
Limit ‘American-made’ arms sales to legitimate institutions
“They also emphasized the need to limit arms to legitimate institutions of the state, and that Lebanon should not be a launching pad for any terrorist acts that destabilize the security and stability of the region, or a source of drug trafficking.
Investment in Lebanon & humanitarian relief
Lebanon news has been devastating. Most of the headlines recently have been negative. The country has seen some of the worst struggles in the region; a port blast that scuppered thousands of jobs, corruption at every level and a devaluation of the Lira to unprecedented levels. It also feels hard done by the Saudi government which has fuelled a volatile relationship with the Saudi leadership.
This is a new era in French, President Macron used this opportunity to mend ties and gain support for the flailing former French Colony.
Civil unrest in Lebanon has created a lot of pressure on the French president to deliver reforms and aid, and there is no better cash cow than the Saudi government.
“They also agreed to establish a Saudi-French mechanism for humanitarian assistance that ensures complete transparency, and expressed their determination to find appropriate mechanisms in cooperation with friendly countries and allies to alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people.”
What do the Saudi’s get in return?
The Saudi Arabian government is desperately trying to change its image. And in doing so is laying the groundwork to opening its doors to tourism. Saudi Arabia has seen the development that has been made by Dubia and sees this as an opportunity to reform itself from a closed extremist society to a tourist hot spot, rich in culture and one with emerging western values.
The French Saudi cooperation is culturally driven
The style and execution of these changes are crucial. Saudi Arabia is big on PR and in lobbying foreign leaders it needs the Western Governments to help change that image. Fairer representation by comments and a more supportive nature.
This has already started with the French Senate member Nathalie Goulet by saying that Saudi Arabia sets an example on combating terror financing.
Additionally, insuring foreign investment for trade will lay the groundwork to creating the framework for Vision 2030. A timeline set by Mohammed Bin Salman for the completion of the biggest tourist phase outside the Muslim world.
A key initiative is the first Saudi Translation Forum so the Arabic history and culture can be shared globally in partnerships. As part of the forum, the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission organized the Kingdom’s first audiovisual translation challenge for students, amateurs, and professionals in the field.
The ‘Motivation Challenge,’ teams of two to three members competed in translating short film clips discussing Saudi culture and history from Arabic into English, French, Spanish, and Korean.
This is a start to the cooperation signalled by the leadership of both countries. Under the five-year agreement, the French Saudi deal has committed to enhancing cultural cooperation and exchange across a broad range of cultural fields, including architecture, audiovisual production, design, film, heritage, literature, performing arts and visual arts.