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France's Macron faces harsh criticism after hosting Saudi prince for dinner

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French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the presidential palace on Thursday for a controversial dinner. , has been severely criticized in France given that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi Arabia.

The visit by the de facto leader of the oil-rich kingdom comes as France and other European nations seek to secure energy sources to reduce their dependence on oil and gas supplies from Russia in a war with Ukraine. France is also a major arms and defense supplier to the Persian Gulf states.

It was the second official visit of the crown prince to the European Union after Khashoggi’s death, after Greece.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Macron could be expected to raise human rights issues with the crown prince while trying to secure energy supplies from countries other than Russia.

“Obviously, this is not abandoning our principles. It is not questioning our commitment to human rights. The President will surely have the opportunity to talk to Mohammed bin Salman on this matter. I will have it, “Born said.

But she added: Countries that produce energy exactly. “

Russian energy company Gazprom on Wednesday cut the amount of natural gas flowing through its main pipeline from Russia to Europe to 20% of its capacity, citing technical problems. But Germany said it was a deliberate move to sow uncertainty and push up prices amid the war in Ukraine.

European countries are rushing to boost gas storage levels for the winter amid fears that Russia may cut off gas exports altogether. Gas exports are used for industry, power generation, and home heating, and seek political influence over the entire block.

Hours before the summit, the crown prince was targeted in a legal complaint filed in a Paris court on Thursday by human rights groups alleging complicity in Khashoggi’s murder.

The Washington-based group Democracy for the Arab World Now has called on French authorities to open a criminal investigation into the crown prince’s role. The group said it had filed a complaint, alleging that the prince was an accomplice in Khashoggi’s torture and his disappearance at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Two other rights groups backed their call for a French investigation, arguing that the prince is not Saudi Arabia’s head of state and should not be exempt from prosecution.

The Paris public prosecutor’s office said it had no information on the complaint.

Other rights groups have also spoken.

“By meeting with the crown prince on French soil, while Saudi dissidents were unjustly detained, trapped inside the country under travel bans, and targeted abroad, President Macron was able to endanger the brutal man’s dangerous normalcy. We are running the risk of contributing to globalization,” said executive James A. Goldston. Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

Mr Macron’s dinner capped off a long day for the French leader. Thursday morning he was in Guinea-Bissau, wrapping up his three-country, four-day tour of Africa.

The Élysée Palace said the war in Ukraine would be a high point on the working dinner’s agenda, adding that Macron would address “human rights” without elaborating. A spokesperson for the news agency said: [of the killing] Must be established. “

Since Khashoggi’s murder, the crown prince has steadily brought high-profile investors back to the kingdom. He also re-established relations with Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This is an important step towards restoring his international standing.

Western intelligence agencies determined that Mohammed was complicit in the killing. Turkish officials said the journalist’s body was dismembered with a bone saw. The crown prince has lost a Western supporter who had previously rooted for his social reforms at his home. He claims he knew nothing about the surgery, even though it was performed by people who reported directly to him.

Macron was one of the most high-profile world leaders to meet the crown prince shortly after his murder during a tense conversation caught on camera at the 2018 G20 summit in Argentina.

Adamson reported from Paris and Batoroui from Dubai. Abdullahal-Shihri and John Leicester, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, contributed from LePecq, France.