Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his first visit to the European Union since the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Tuesday, traveling to Greece for a two-day official visit before a second stop in France, according to the kingdom's news agency.
Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, must discuss with the leaders of Greece and France bilateral relations and the means to strengthen them in different areas, wrote the official agency SPA, citing a press release from the royal court.
Accompanied by three ministers and a large delegation of entrepreneurs, MBS arrived in Athens on Tuesday evening and held talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis before signing agreements on maritime transport, transport and transport. energy, defense technologies, waste management and culture.
Relations between the two countries are historic and we will have the opportunity to finalize a series of bilateral projects, MBS said at the start of his meeting with Mr. Mitsotakis.
Among them is the installation of a power line that will connect Saudi Arabia to Greece and provide Europe with much cheaper energy, MBS pointed out.
He also discussed bilateral cooperation on hydrogen technologies and the plan to turn Greece into a European hub for this technology.
Discussions between the two leaders further focused on a proposed data transfer cable between Saudi Arabia and Greece, which will be transformed into a regional hub between Europe and Asia. , added Greek diplomatic sources.
This visit comes less than two weeks after the visit of US President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia, which marked the return of the Crown Prince to the international scene, in the context of the war in Ukraine and soaring energy prices.
The de facto ruler of the kingdom, Mohammed bin Salman, was ostracized by Western countries after the 2018 murder of critical Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country's consulate in Istanbul. The US intelligence services have highlighted the responsibility of MBS, which has soured relations between Riyadh and Washington.
The “fist bump”, fist to fist, exchanged between the two men in Jeddah during the visit of Mr. Biden sealed the abandonment by the American president of his campaign promise to treat the Saudi kingdom as an outcast, in because of the Khashoggi case and its human rights abuses.
The crown prince's visit to Europe is also highly symbolic after this period of isolation, commented Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute. Although there hasn't been an official coordinated stance against MBS, the fact is he hasn't visited any European or North American country since 2018, he said. added.
King Salman's son recently received a boost from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Saudi Arabia in April and later hosted in Ankara in June.
Since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Western countries have been trying to convince Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter of crude oil, to open the floodgates to to relieve the markets.
Rising oil prices are notably fueling inflation in the United States, which has reached 40-year highs, and putting pressure on the government ahead of the elections in half term this year.
Riyadh is resisting pressure from its allies, however, citing its commitments to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+), the oil alliance which he co-leads with Moscow.
In May, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud said the kingdom had done what it could for the oil market.
Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron received the new President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, in Paris.
The two countries signed on this occasion a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement on energy cooperation.