Less than two weeks after his July 15 meeting in Jeddah with President Joe Biden, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is in the midst of his apparent 'rehabilitation tour', having just been hosted in Paris by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron is coming under fire for rolling out the red carpet for the man widely believed behind journalist Jamal Khashoggi's grisly murder in 2018. The BBC is calling the Wednesday into Thursday visit and working dinner with Macron "lavish". So now the real purpose of Biden's warm "bro" fist bump is coming into focus: in essence it bestowed a symbolic Washington "blessing" for the wayward crown prince to once again be embraced by the so-called international community (assuming he wasn't already).
"Mohammed bin Salman flew into Orly airport [Wednesday], south of Paris, the night before the talks and stayed at a luxurious château at Louveciennes, west of Paris," BBC writes.
And describing the opulent surroundings - and also a particularly twisted irony - the report continues, "A cousin of the murdered journalist, Emad Khashoggi, designed the Château Louis XIV as a tribute to the so-called Sun King who ruled France in the 17th Century."
Khashoggi's fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, publicly voiced her outraged over the whole spectacle of the MbS visit, charging that Macron embraced her late partner's "executioner with all the honors".
Macron's office just prior to their meeting issued an ambiguous statement assuring critics that human rights would be raised "in a general way" - though that could mean absolutely anything.
The Saudi crown prince literally had the red carpet treatment... in a luxurious home built by a Khashoggi family member:
“In a twist of history, the Chateau Louis XIV was built by Khashoggi's cousin Emad Khashoggi who runs a luxury property development business in France.” https://t.co/I1W2CGH7A0— Shivam Vij (@DilliDurAst) July 28, 2022
The French government is broadly defending the MbS visit based on the energy crisis brought on by the Russia-Ukraine war:
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said she did not think the French people would understand it if their president did not talk to the world's energy producers when tensions over prices were high and "Russia cuts gas supplies, threatens to cut them and then cuts them again".
...though it appears the irony of emphasizing cut-cut in relation to MbS' visit was entirely lost on the French prime minister with this statement.
The Saudi strategy for reviving the crown prince's reputation seems to be "going green" while touting energy efficient futuristic and fantastical projects...
Saudi Arabia unveils plans to build this $1 trillion ‘linear city’ inside a 170km-long mirrored skyscraper pic.twitter.com/j9NVl3oSBE— Tansu YEĞEN (@TansuYegen) July 27, 2022
...which also seem dubious to actually achieve - but that's not the point.
Just prior to arriving in France, MbS had received the "royal treatment" during a rare official trip to Athens to meet with Greek leaders. During the two-day visit, he played up "green" initiatives with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The two signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a future "cheaper renewable energy" deal.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince to Greece's Prime Minister:— e-Αmyna (@e_amyna) July 26, 2022
"I promised you that when I come to Greece I will not come empty handed. We have a lot of stuff that are going to be game changer for both of countries and also for the whole region". pic.twitter.com/sbB6nJ1eFa
The Guardian described that "smiles, handshakes, backslaps and the Acropolis all to himself. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has landed in Europe – his first trip west since the brutal killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi – and on a continent jittering with energy worries, the Saudi royal has received red-carpet treatment."
When MbS arrived in France, The Washington Post detailed how Macron upped the ante on Biden's fist bump: "Mohammed bin Salman engaged in a long handshake with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace on Thursday, in the latest sign of the crown prince’s rehabilitation nearly four years after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the report said.