Macron hosting MBS; duplicity or diplomacy?
After MBS' visit to Greece, his visit to France is having NGOs and human rights groups on outrage.
Western democracy hypocrisy knows no end, and this time it rolls in the French edition, in which Paris is witnessing its President's decision to host Saudi de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, who has been long deemed a pariah by the West for being behind the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Istanbul consulate in 2018.
After Greece rolled out the red carpet after which Riyadh and Athens signed numerous deals, the prince arrived at Orly airport on Wednesday night, where he will be welcomed to France's political center, the Elysee Palace, on Thursday.
Macron will be asking MBS to boost Saudi oil production as the energy crisis in Europe brews on into a worsening situation which will result in a very cold winter soon.
The West seems to rehabilitate MBS for their interests.
After Khashoggi's murder in 2018, a UN investigation concluded that the event was an “extrajudicial killing for which Saudi Arabia is responsible” and that there is "credible evidence" to justify further investigation of high-level Saudi officials, including MBS.
"The rehabilitation of the murderous prince will be justified in France as in the United States by arguments of realpolitik. But it's actually bargaining that predominates, let's face it," Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard said on Twitter ahead of Prince Mohammed's visit.
Formidable initiative / Initiative formidable. Si nos politiques laissent tomber et fluent les valeurs de notre société, alors tournons nous vers d'autres institutions - celle de justice en tout premier lieu, afin de les proteger. Rendons justice a #Jamalkhashoggi https://t.co/ayoHLUKKI0— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) July 28, 2022
Callamard told AFP that she was “profoundly troubled by the visit, because of what it means for our world and what it means for Jamal [Khashoggi] and people like him."
The crown prince’s reception by world leaders was “all the more shocking given many of them at the time expressed disgust and a commitment not to bring him back into the international community”, she added, denouncing “double standards” and “values … being obliterated in the face of concern about the rising price of oil."
Julien Bayou, the head of the opposition Green party (EELV), said he was “shocked” France was “completely abandoning the idea of defending human rights in the world … Emmanuel Macron has been forced to roll out the red carpet because we need oil. Fossil fuel dependency means we are selling our principles cheap.”
La France n'est pas un paillasson pour dictateurs en quête de réhabilitation sur la scene internationale.— Julien Bayou (@julienbayou) July 28, 2022
A ne pas engager la transition écologique, notre pays brade sa diplomatie et nos valeurs pour quelques gouttes de pétrole.#MBShttps://t.co/byPrCFJ7vi
The head of Human Rights Watch in France, Benedicte Jeannerod, tweeted that Bin Salman could “apparently count on Emmanuel Macron to rehabilitate him on the international stage despite the atrocious murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the pitiless repression of all criticism by the Saudi authorities, and war crimes in Yemen."
A moins qu'engagements forts & concrets en matière de droits humains n'aient été sécurisés avec Arabie Saoudite avant la visite, ce que rien n'indique, Macron recevant MBS ne fait que risquer de le réhabiliter et de blanchir son image malgré d'atroces abus https://t.co/VFLEyXL5Qk pic.twitter.com/j73EO4sQAO— Bénédicte Jeannerod (@BenJeannerod) July 28, 2022
An outraged fiancee
On her part, Khashoggi's fiancee Hatice Cengiz expressed outrage at Macron's decision to host talks with bin Salman.
"I am scandalised and outraged that Emmanuel Macron is receiving with all the honours the executioner of my fiance, Jamal Khashoggi," Hatice Cengiz told AFP.
"All the international investigations carried out up to this point... recognise the responsibility of MBS in the assassination," Cengiz said. "The surge in energy prices because of the war in Ukraine cannot justify that -- in the name of alleged realpolitik -- we absolve the person responsible for Saudi policy towards political opponents."
EU swimming against the current
On his part, the European Union's chief foreign policy spokesperson on Thursday defended the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Greece and France as the natural order of things after being challenged about the royal's suspected role in the murder of a dissident journalist.
"It’s a natural part of our relations: enhancing the relations, reviewing the relations, advancing the relations," Peter Stano told a briefing when asked to comment on the appropriateness of inviting the Saudi de facto leader to Europe.
Grilled about EU's position on the murder of the Washington Post columnist, whose body was never found, Stano claimed it remained unchanged.
"It is very clear we expect a full investigation, clarification, accountability in this case. This is raised regularly," he added.
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) arrived in Greece for the first time since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi three years ago. Bin Salman received red-carpet treatment upon his arrival where he was received with smiles, handshakes, and backslaps.
Not only is this MBS’ first trip to Greece since Khashoggi’s murder, but his first trip to the West at a time when Europe is facing an energy crisis. The de facto leader of the world’s largest oil producer has been welcomed with a warmth that would have been recently, prior to US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, considered impossible.
Amid the energy crisis, Greece’s position regarding MBS has clearly changed and the human rights problem it had faced with Riyadh turned into a distant memory as it sought to solve its energy problem through talks with Saudi Arabia with no mention of the murdered journalist.
On Tuesday, prior to the arrival of MBS in Greece, Athens’ development minister Adonis Georgiadis told Arab News that “we are deeply honored that his Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman decided to visit Greece as his first trip to an EU country since 2018,” adding that “this is very important to Greece and very important to our relationship because we honor and admire his leadership, his vision for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the way the kingdom is progressing to the new era of humanity in renewable energy, and new technology.”
Georgiadis highlights that the bilateral ties between the two countries are excellent and that as a result of those ties a cultural accord, in an unprecedented step, would be signed at the Acropolis Museum.
“This has never happened before,” said the development minister, “We have never signed an MOU with any other country in the world in the Acropolis Museum and this is a gesture from our government, from our prime minister to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to show how we feel that you are something very exceptional to us.”