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PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday on the second leg of his European tour.

Macron greeted the Crown Prince with a warm handshake as the pair posed on the red carpet for photographers before heading inside for a chat at a private dinner.

Earlier, a delegation of senior Saudi ministers – led by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Minister of State Musaid Al-Aiban – had arrived in the Elysée Palace for separate talks with their French counterparts.

The delegation accompanying Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday. (AFP)

The crown prince’s visit to France follows a trip to Greece earlier in the week and comes two weeks after he held talks in Saudi Arabia with US President Joe Biden.

The West is keen to restore relations with the Kingdom as it seeks to counter the growing regional influence of Iran, Russia and China.

France and other European countries are also seeking to diversify their energy sources following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which led Moscow to cut off gas supplies to Europe.

This visit “is part of an international context that we all know, which is that of Russian aggression against Ukraine, and its repercussions on food and energy security”, declared a French presidential adviser.

“It is also part of a regional context characterized by crises and threats that persist in many countries in the region.

French President Emmanuel Macron receives Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for a dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Thursday July 28, 2022. (SPA)

“Thus, the President will address the issue of the energy supply of European countries with the Crown Prince, recalling our needs in this area. President Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will also address the issue of the fight against terrorism, which continues to pose a significant threat in the Middle East with its possible consequences in Europe.

“In addition, the President and the Crown Prince will discuss regional crises and the need for security. Of course, regional crises include the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. However, they also cover the situation in Yemen, Iraq and, of course, Lebanon.

Former French foreign minister Herve de Charette said the crown prince’s visit was of geopolitical significance amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in the Middle East.

French President Emmanuel Macron receives Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for a dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Thursday July 28, 2022. (SPA)

“This is the first official reception of the crown prince by one of the heads of state who are members of the Security Council,” he said.

“It is therefore a meaningful event for the two partners who already know each other and have been able to forge useful links. “In the complicated game that is currently being played in the Middle East, it is a way for them to affirm their desire to be fully involved, one on behalf of the leading country of the Arab States of the Gulf and the Middle East , the other representing the largest country in the EU.

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