Saudi Deputy Crown Prince to boost ties in France

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman travels to Paris next week to reinforce growing ties between the two countries

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Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman travels to Paris next week to reinforce growing ties between the two countries, the French embassy in Riyadh said on Thursday.

Prince Mohammed, 30, will hold talks on Monday with President Francois Hollande.

On Tuesday, the Saudi royal is to co-host the third Saudi-French joint committee with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Mohammed, a driving force for change in the conservative kingdom, is Saudi Arabia’s defense minister and chairs the main economic coordinating body, the Council of Economic Affairs and Development.

Second in line to the throne, he is behind the kingdom’s wide-ranging Vision 2030 plan to diversify Saudi Arabia's oil-dependent economy.

The plan, unveiled in April, is complemented by the National Transformation Program which sets five-year targets for a tripling of non-oil revenue and other measures.

Since mid-June, Prince Mohammed has been in the United States where he met President Barack Obama and has held talks with major US corporations.

France’s ties with Saudi Arabia have grown under Hollande, while Riyadh has been building alliances beyond its traditional defense partner the United States to counter Riyadh's regional rival Iran.

Prince Mohammed’s visit to France serves “to underline and deepen the excellence of the global French-Saudi strategic partnership”, an embassy statement said.

The prince made his first official visit to Paris in June last year for the inaugural Saudi-French joint committee, following a summit meeting in Riyadh between Hollande and Gulf leaders including Prince Mohammed’s father King Salman.

Through the joint committee both countries are seeking to reinforce diverse ties ranging from defense to energy, health, agriculture and sport.

During meetings with French politicians, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls, the two sides will look at “new perspectives of cooperation in the framework of the National Transformation Program”, the embassy said. “Major regional issues will also be touched upon.”

Prince Mohammed is also expected to meet with French business leaders.
On a visit to Riyadh in October, Valls announced agreements, some that were still to be finalized, worth 10 billion euros ($11 billion) in a range of sectors.

France is the third-biggest foreign investor in Saudi Arabia.