France to assist Saudi Arabia set up orchestra, opera

France to assist Saudi Arabia set up orchestra, opera

France to assist Saudi Arabia set up orchestra, opera

After a tense first exchange between the two leaders in Riyadh last November that was dominated by a difference of opinion on how to handle Riyadh's regional rival Iran, Mr. Macron and Prince Mohammed sought to get to know each other and work on what they have in common rather than their differences.

A Franco-Saudi deal to develop Al Ula, a Saudi city richly endowed with archeological remnants, is also set to be a central highlight of the visit, the source added.

But the trip follows a period of underlying tensions.

France hopes to join sectors like technology, renewable energy, health and tourism that Saudi Arabia wants to develop, an official with Macron's office said. Part of that vision is seeking further foreign investment in the kingdom.

A French lawyer representing the Legal Center for Rights and Development filed the suit against the crown prince, now in France on an official visit, for his leading role in the Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. "We have here a young leader who is going to be in the highest functions in a country where 70 percent of the population is under 30", Macron said alongside the 32-year-old prince.

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"The partnership between Saudi Arabia and France is very important, especially now that Europe and the Middle East are going through changes in the world".

"I can not think of a better partner for culture and art than France", Saudi Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad told AFP.

"It is obvious that we will not tolerate any ballistic activity that threatens Saudi Arabia".

Macron, 40, has walked a diplomatic tightrope in talks with the reformist prince as he seeks to bolster ties with the world's top crude exporter, while also managing relations with the kingdom's arch-nemesis Iran.

The gala dinner also hosted Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who tweeted a cheerful selfie with Macron and Prince Mohammed.

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Macron invited Hariri to Paris for talks and he has since rescinded his resignation, a development that analysts say exposed the limits of the prince's authority.

Prince Mohammed, known widely by his initials MBS, dined with President Emmanuel Macron at Paris's historic Louvre museum on Sunday night after flying in on his first trip to France as the heir to the Saudi throne.

France traditionally has been a major arms supplier to the Saudis, but French officials said no big weapons contracts were planned to coincide with the crown prince's three-day official visit.

Last week, 10 global rights groups implored Macron to pressure Prince Mohammed over the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, claiming it is exacerbating a humanitarian crisis for thousands of civilians.

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