French President Emmanuel Macron plans to welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to his presidential palace and treat him to dinner on Thursday, marking another milestone in the Saudi leader’s diplomatic rehabilitation less than four years after the writer’s murder and critic Jamal Khashoggi.
Macron’s office called Thursday night’s meeting a “working dinner.” It will cap off a long day for the French leader: he was in Guinea-Bissau, wrapping up a three-day visit to Africa on Thursday morning.
The Saudi prince is making his first official visit to the European Union – he stopped in Greece before France – since the 2018 murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The US-based journalist’s body was dismembered with a bone saw, Turkish officials say.
France and other European countries are seeking to secure their energy sources to reduce their dependence on oil and gas supplies from Russia. France is also a major arms and defense supplier to the Gulf countries.
The prince has been regularly attracting big-name investors to the kingdom since Khashoggi’s murder. He also reset Saudi relations with Turkey, a key step towards rehabilitating its international position.
Western intelligence has determined that Prince Mohammed was an accomplice to the murder. The prince lost dismayed supporters in the West who had previously applauded his social reforms inside the kingdom. He maintains that he had no knowledge of the operation which was carried out by people who reported directly to him.
Macron was one of the most high-profile world leaders to meet the prince shortly after the murder, in a tense conversation filmed at the G20 summit in Argentina in 2018. They have met several times since .