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Macron also faces the challenge of bolstering ties with the world's top crude exporter while managing other regional relationships in the Middle East.

Amid the flurry of announcements in France, campaigners mobilised to keep attention focused on French weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and rights abuses in the country.

The Crown Prince, who is commonly referred to as MBS, was in California to discuss a number of projects with Apple CEO, Tim Cook.

Al-Sama'ani attributed the importance of the visit to the economic agreements and political cooperation that will add more regional and worldwide weight to Saudi Arabia, as well as to ongoing global cooperation in combatting ideological and practical terrorism and extremism on which certain terror-sponsoring countries thrive.

The official did not elaborate.

France, traditionally a major arms supplier of the Saudis, dismissed questions about big arms contracts during this trip.

The visit also highlighted the successes of the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 and Saudi Vision 2030, and their impact on the economic, social and developmental levels, the minister added.

Prince Mohammed's decision to skip a visit to Station F, Europe's largest startup incubator founded by billionaire Xavier Neil, is likely to disappoint Macron, especially after the crown prince met with technology titans in Silicon Valley last week. "It is about forging a new partnership with France, not just shopping for deals".

Griezmann denies Barcelona deal is done
Griezmann denies Barcelona deal is done

Dozens of people staged a protest Sunday in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence, where the prince had previously been expected to attend a concert.

Prince Mohammed seeks to show "Saudi Arabia is open for business", Bernard Haykel, a professor at Princeton University, told AFP.

Backed by high-power lobbying and public relations firms, the prince is seeking to rebrand Saudi Arabia as a modernist oasis instead of an austere kingdom known for exporting jihadist ideology and subjugating women.

The powerful young prince who is behind modernising reforms in Saudi Arabia is on a three-day trip at a time when relations between the two countries have become more complicated.

On the diplomatic front, the two countries share strategic regional interests notably against Qatar which they accuse of supporting extremists and of closeness with Iran, an arch enemy and regional rival to Riyadh.

But the visit follows a period of underlying tensions.

Emmanuel Macron will meet the Crown Prince on Tuesday.

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



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