Saudi Crown Prince holds talks with French PM

Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz is on an official visit to France

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz held talks on Tuesday with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Valls in Paris.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said the Crown Prince and the French prime minister “discussed aspects of cooperation between the two countries in all fields, in addition to the latest developments in the Middle East.”

On Monday the Crown Prince, who is also Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, held talks with President Francois Hollande in the Élysée Palace.

An aide to the president was quoted by AFP as saying that the two leaders were close to signing a $3 billion arms deal for Lebanon.

“It will not be signed Monday but it is being finalized,” the aide said.

The deal is for military equipment and arms to be supplied to Lebanon’s army.

Hollande told an official dinner at the Elysee that Lebanon was a “great but vulnerable country” which “needs security.”

“We have come together, Saudi Arabia and France, to help Lebanon on the condition that it also helps itself, for its own security,” Hollande added, without commenting directly on the joint contract.

The deal comes as Beirut faces the threat of jihadists on its border with Syria. More than a million refugees have fled the war in Syria by escaping to Lebanon, according to figures from the United Nations.

Hollande added that France and Saudi Arabia have a “shared priority of peace and security in the Middle East”.

Prince Salman is due to meet Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday for talks over the situation in Iraq and Syria, where jihadists have seized swathes of territory and are terrorizing Christians and other minorities.

Last week Hollande rejected any cooperation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whom he accused of being a “de-facto ally” of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, after the regime said it was willing to work with the international community to tackle the jihadists.

And in comments carried on national TV at the weekend, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah warned the West would be the next target of the jihadists sweeping through Syria and Iraq, unless there is “rapid” action.

“If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month,” he said in remarks reported on Saturday by Al Arabiya News.

[With AFP]

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