France, Saudi Arabia agree on need to curb 'Iranian expansionism,' Macron says

The realpolitik of change

The Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman also visited the headquarters of Apple along with the CEO Tim Cook where he explored potential areas for partnerships and cooperation in the areas of tech, education, research, and training in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom also revealed on Monday that it would enter short films at the Cannes film festival next month for the first time, a further sign of Prince Mohammed's mission to modernise his country.

"With a rich tradition of storytelling, Saudi Arabia is embarking on the development of a sustainable and dynamic (film) industry", Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad said in a statement sent to AFP on Monday.

But the trip follows a period of underlying tensions.

Saudi officials project strong relations between Prince Mohammed and Macron, both young leaders undertaking challenging reforms to transform their countries.

The Gulf dispute with Qatar — isolated by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt — is not likely to be high among topics covered, if at all, the official suggested.

"I can not think of a better partner for culture and art than France", Saudi Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad told AFP. The prince confirmed at a news conference that the Saudi military could be involved in this operation.

"The leadership of both countries share much in common".

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Macron waded into a regional crisis last November when Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri tendered his resignation on live television from Riyadh, apparently under pressure from Prince Mohammed.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince and French President Emmanuel Macron hailed warming ties Tuesday and agreed on the need to curb Tehran's "expansionism" in the Middle East, but conceded differences over the key issue of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Macron, 40, has walked a diplomatic tightrope in talks with the reformist prince as he seeks to bolster ties with the world's top crude exporter, while also managing relations with the kingdom's arch-nemesis Iran.

"We will continue to be extremely vigilant on this point", he said, while adding: "It is obvious that we will not tolerate any ballistic activity that threatens Saudi Arabia".

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth advised the French president in a tweet Sunday to "keep his distance - from MBS's war crimes in Yemen and his ongoing repression of women and dissidents at home".

France traditionally has been a major arms supplier to the Saudis, but French officials said no big weapons contracts were planned to coincide with the crown prince's three-day official visit.

When asked about civilian casualties, the crown prince said the coalition was doing everything to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen but that mistakes were inevitable in conflicts.

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