MBS in Greece then to France as Western energy crisis deepens
Following the US President's trip to Saudi Arabia, Greece and France offer the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince an invitation to their countries to talk energy forgetting all about murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
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.”
Despite the killing of Khashoggi, and given the energy crisis Greece and all of the West are facing, 17 bilateral agreements have been signed between Saudi Arabia and Greece. However, the most important one is the one which anticipates the installation of an electricity cable between the two countries. MBS pledged that such an installation would provide Europe “with much cheaper energy”.
In a statement released in Jeddah, the Saudi royal court said that MBS would meet the leaders of both Greece and France, in a two-step trip, “to discuss bilateral relations and ways to enhance them in various fields as well as a number of issues of common interest”.
Following the Greece visit, MBS is being hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron for talks in Paris on Thursday. The French President has, in his invitation for the de facto leader, defied criticism that such an invitation is deeply inappropriate given the dismembering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi just four years ago. However, Biden’s visit to Riyadh has also given bin Salman an approval pass in Paris for a meeting.
France also faces the crisis Greece is facing as the war in Ukraine and the collective-West’s sanctions on Russia deepen the energy crisis throughout the West. The second topic on the table in France pertains to Iran's nuclear deal, the JCPOA.
Amnesty International secretary general Agnes Callamard told AFP "I feel profoundly troubled by the visit, because of what it means for our world and what it means for Jamal (Khashoggi) and people like him,” describing MBS as a man who "does not tolerate any dissent".
It is also worth noting that MBS’ visit to Greece entailed a 700-person delegation that arrived on 7 planes; one of which has been reportedly decked out as a hospital. Furthermore, 350 limousines were requested by the Saudi mission, according to the Greek news portal iefimerida, which were not all available in Greece and some had to be brought in from Bulgaria and Germany.