KSA-France ties at unprecedented levels with strategic defense deals

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holds talks with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holds talks with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris.

The sealing of $12 billion worth of deals between Saudi Arabia and France is set to take the alliance between the two countries to unprecedented levels.

In one of the meetings during his high-profile visit, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, held talks with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Both reviewed bilateral cooperation, especially in the field of defense, and discussed a number of issues of common interest.

The meeting was attended by Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Issa, director general of the minister of defense’s office; Lt. Gen. Abdullah Sultan, commander of naval forces, and Brig. Gen. Turki bin Khaled bin Abdullah Al-Saudi, military attache to France.

France’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bertrand Besancenot told Asharq Al-Awsat that Prince Mohammed’s visit heralded a “new stage in Saudi–French strategic relations.”

Experts said the deals were another step toward a much closer alliance between the two countries, especially after it is clear that both see eye-to-eye on major political issues.

Christian Mallard, a Paris-based expert in diplomacy and international affairs, told Al Arabiya: “France and Saudi Arabia understood more than ever that they needed to steal a march on Iran as it became, along with Daesh, the biggest threat in the region.”

He added that Tehran and Daesh needed to be stopped from spreading their influence in the region.

Raphael Liogier, a political science professor at the Sciences-Po institute, told Al Arabiya: “Through these deals, Saudi Arabia really wanted to strengthen the position of France in the region.”

Additionally, Liogier said: “It is only the beginning … more deals are expected between Paris and Riyadh. When it comes to advanced military technology, France can … become main Saudi ally.”

The closer-than-ever ties between France and Saudi Arabia are signs of a new, focused and determined Saudi policy-making, which aims to actively strengthen alliances across the world, particularly with countries that are determined to work with Riyadh on stabilizing the region.

The royal visit followed a visit to Riyadh in May when President Francois Hollande participated in a Gulf Cooperation Council summit, a rare honor for a foreign head of state.


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