Criticism of Macron for hosting controversial Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman

French President Emmanuel Macron receiving Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman at the Elysee on Thursday. / AFP

Reporters Without Borders reminds the French president that his guest “has 27 journalists detained and is suspected of ordering the murder of Jamal Kashoggi”

From being an international outcast to having dinner with Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace. Despite criticism from human rights organizations to his diner, the French president held “a working dinner” this Thursday with the controversial Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS), whom he received with a red carpet and a strong handshake.

Paris was the second stop, after Greece, in Bin Salman’s first official visit to Europe after the murder by Saudi agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul (Turkey) in October 2018. The CIA accuses Bin Salman to approve the operation to assassinate Khashoggi, a journalist critical of the Saudi power who wrote for ‘The Washington Post’.

The dinner between Macron and Bin Salman takes place less than two weeks after US President Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia. The “fist bump” between Biden and Bin Salman marked the return of MBS to the international scene, in the midst of the war in Ukraine and in the face of international fear for its consequences on food security and the increase in oil prices.

On the dinner menu, energy supply and control of the Iranian nuclear program, Saudi Arabia’s biggest regional rival. Elysee sources assure that Macron will also address the issue of respect for human rights in the Middle Eastern country during the meeting with Bin Salman.

Human rights organizations and French opposition politicians have criticized Macron for receiving Bin Salman at the Elysee. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has reminded the president that his guest “has detained at least 27 journalists and bloggers and it is suspected that he ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi”.

«The rehabilitation of the assassin prince will be justified in France and in the United States by arguments of ‘realpolitik’. But, in fact, it is the haggling that predominates, make no mistake,” Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, writes on Twitter. “The visit of MBS to France and Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia does not change the fact that MBS is nothing more than a murderer,” adds Callamard, who at the time of Khasoggi’s murder was the UN special rapporteur for crimes extrajudicial and received death threats for investigating this case.

«On the menu of the dinner between Macron and MBS, the dismembered body of the journalist Kashogi? Climate chaos? Peace and human rights? The day of ecological debt? Nope! Oil and weapons! Just the opposite of what needs to be done, ”criticizes MEP Yannick Jadot, a former environmentalist candidate for the French presidential elections, on Twitter.

Gallic Defense

Paris defends itself from criticism. “If we want, at the same time, to face the consequences of the crisis (energy and food) and, if we want to have a weight in the region, the only way to do it is to talk to the main actors. It is not ‘realpolitik’, it is plain politics. It is about being effective, about having a weight”, sources from the Elysée have pointed out.

Coinciding with Bin Salam’s visit to Paris, two NGOs, Dawn (Democracy for the Arab World Now) -founded by Kashoggi- and Trial International, have filed a complaint with the French Justice against the crown prince for “complicity in torture and forced disappearance» of the murdered journalist.

The fiancée of the ‘freelance’, Hatice Cengiz, has been “shocked and outraged” by the fact that “Macron receives with all honors the executioner” of her fiancé. Khasoggi’s body, which was dismembered, was never found. The crown prince denies ordering the journalist’s murder, though he says he bears responsibility as a Saudi leader.

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