Macron Entertains Saudi Crown Prince Paris-Style at Louvre

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron dined inside the Louvre Museum on Sunday evening as the Saudi heir apparent kicked off a three-day visit to France.

Prince Mohammed, 32, met with the 40-year-old French leader for a private meal in the former royal palace-turned-museum in Paris ahead of their official rounds of meetings and a state dinner on Tuesday. Macron and Mohammed, who is on his first visit to France as Crown Prince, already met in Riyadh in November.

Macron Entertains Saudi Crown Prince Paris-Style at Louvre

The French president’s office said the museum was chosen as a symbol of France’s cultural heritage and because of a new exhibition of the work of painter Eugene Delacroix that just opened. It cited the painter’s “Liberty Leading the People,” which shows a woman with naked chest standing on the barricades, holding the revolutionary red, white and blue flag over the corpses of fallen fighters. The painting depicts the 1830 uprising that contributed to the abdication of the French King Charles X, and is the poster of the exhibition.

The French president’s office declined to say in which of the museum’s rooms the two men dined, nor who accompanied them for the two-hour meal and talks. The Louvre didn’t return calls for comment.

The discussion was meant to “anticipate the topics” they would discuss during the visit, Macron’s office said. Points for discussion include Saudi Arabia and France’s strategic partnership, greater cultural cooperation, regional issues like Iran, Yemen, Syria and Israel.
The two countries will work on defining a “strategic partnership” that will include some contracts, which Macron will sign on a visit to Saudi Arabia before the end of the year, his office added.

Patching Up

The dinner and visit may help the two leaders take steps to ease a complicated relationship: This visit has been delayed at least once.

At their Riyadh meeting last year, Macron pushed the Saudis to allow more humanitarian access to Yemen, while the Saudis expressed their displeasure at French attempts to deepen dialogue with Iran. The meeting did allow a way out of a deadlock over Lebanon, whose Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the time was in Saudi Arabia, and under pressure from his hosts not to return to Lebanon. The Saudis eventually agreed to a French invitation for Hariri to come to Paris, before he finally returned to Lebanon.

The Louvre Museum and the Misk foundation of Saudi Arabia -- a state body funding cultural projects -- will work together on cultural projects, the Elysee presidential palace said. The French Ministry of Culture said that France will help Saudi Arabia create its own orchestra.

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