French President Macron announces surprise visit to Riyadh


Macron is to travel to Saudi Arabia from United Arab Emirates on Thursday night

Macron makes announcement on visit to United Arab Emirates (AFP)
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Last update: 
Friday 10 November 2017 0:22 UTC

French President Emmanuel Macron announced he will visit Saudi Arabia on Thursday night for a meeting with the kingdom's powerful crown prince.

Macron, on his debut visit to the Middle East, made the surprise announcement at a news conference in Dubai.

He said he would hold talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss crises in Lebanon, Yemen and the wider region.

"It was decided to go on this visit to Riyadh to see the crown prince, first, it is in order to have a first meeting with him, but also to discuss regional questions, in particular Yemen and Lebanon," Macron said.

He said it was vital to work with Saudi Arabia for the stability of the region and to fight terrorism, given the close relations between the kingdom and France.

He also said that he would not make any public comment on a recent wave of arrests in Saudi, as it is not his style to interfere in the domestic policies of other countries.

"I will also emphasise the importance of Lebanese stability and integrity," he said in the aftermath of the resignation this week of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

He said he had had informal contacts with Hariri, but there had been no request to transfer him to France.

On Iran, Macron repeated that he wanted to keep the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, but said he was "very concerned" by its ballistic missile programme and raised the prospect of possible sanctions on Tehran with regard those activities.