Macron arrives in Riyadh on surprise visit

 09 Nov 2017 - 22:49

Macron arrives in Riyadh on surprise visit
Prime Minister and Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 9, 2017. Dubai Media Office/ Reuters

AFP

Riyadh:  French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Saudi Arabia late Thursday for talks with the kingdom's powerful crown prince on the rising tensions between Tehran and Riyadh.

Macron, on his debut visit to the Middle East, made the surprise announcement at a news conference in Dubai that he would meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

His arrival was confirmed to AFP by the French embassy in Riyadh.

Macron's talks with Prince Mohammed will cover Iran and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and its allies have imposed a complete blockade in the wake of a missile attack last Saturday by Tehran-backed Huthi rebels.

"I've heard some very hard positions" taken by Saudi Arabia against Iran, said Macron, adding it was important to speak to all sides and that France had a role in making peace.

The visit comes at a time of increased friction between the Sunni kingdom and Shiite Iran, which are embroiled on opposite sides in Lebanon and Yemen.

The talks would also include developments in Lebanon, whose prime minister Saad Hariri resigned in a shock announcement broadcast from Riyadh on Saturday.

Macron's visit comes days after Prince Mohammed launched what the Saudi government has dubbed a wide-ranging corruption crackdown, arresting dozens of members of the royal family as well as ministers and businessmen.