Macron meets Saudi crown prince amid rising regional tensions

Macron meets Saudi crown prince amid rising regional tensions
French premier Emmanuel Macron meets face to face with Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince on his first trip to the Middle East.
2 min read
10 November, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron held talks late on Thursday with Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince as soaring tensions between Tehran and Riyadh soar over crises in Yemen and Lebanon.

Macron flew in from a tour of the United Arab Emirates for his first face-to-face talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is thought to be the architect of Saudi Arabia's recent foreign policy decisions.

"I've heard some very hard positions" taken by Saudi Arabia against Iran, Macron told a news conference in Dubai before his visit, adding it was important to speak to all sides and that France had a role in making peace.

Following a failed missile attack against Riyadh airport on Saturday, which was claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, the kingdom has accused Tehran of "direct aggression".

Iran vehemently dismissed the charge that it supplied missiles to the Houthis and warned Saudi Arabia of its "might", prompting fresh acrimony between the regional heavyweights.

"The French president condemned the Houthi missile attack on Riyadh, stressing France's stand and solidarity with the Kingdom," the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

The two leaders "also discussed the latest developments in the Middle East and their efforts for security and stability in the region, including joint coordination in the fight against terrorism," it added.

On Iran, Macron has repeatedly said that he wanted to keep the landmark 2015 nuclear deal despite opposition from US President Donald Trump.

US pressure to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal could push Tehran into deciding to build its own nuclear weapons, Macron told Time magazine in an interview published Thursday.

Macron and Prince Mohammed also discussed developments in Lebanon, whose prime minister Saad Hariri resigned in a shock announcement broadcast from Riyadh on Saturday, citing Iran's "grip" on his country and threats to his life.

Lebanon has become the latest front line of the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Rumours have also swirled about Hariri being held in Saudi Arabia against his will, with Beirut on Thursday demanding that the former premier return to his country.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, demanded on Thursday that its citizens leave Lebanon "as soon as possible" and also called on them not to travel to the country.