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Saudi Prince bin Salman to visit France next week
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is to make an official visit to France on 9-10 April. France wants a "new cooperation", the Elysée presidential palace said when announcing the visit, but NGOs are lobbying for President Emmanuel Macron raise the humanitarian crisis created by the war in Yemen.
"We want a new cooperation, concentrating less on contracts and more in investing in the future, especially in digital and renewable energy, with a common vision," the French presidency said on Thursday.
Saudi sources said the visit will concentrate on culture, tourism, investment and new technology.
Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, is to visit Paris's start-up hub, Station F, but, although the two countries already major trading partners, the French do not expect any new contracts to be signed.
Salman will arrive on Sunday for a private visit, according to Saudi sources, and may stay at the Château Louis XIV, west of Paris, which the New York Times recently revealed he bought in 2015.
Yemen humanitarian crisis
He and Macron have already met, briefly, at Riyadh airport during a stop-off on the French president's trip to Abu Dhabi during the crisis sparked by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's announcement of his resignation, which he later withdrew.
Salman has already visited the UK and the US, spending three weeks in the latter country, but the Elysée says it is not disappointed by the brevity of the visit.
The 32-year-old has been responsible for much-reported reforms in Saudi Arabia, including an anti-corruption purge and some improvements in women's rights.
But he has also been deeply implicated in the Yemen war, which the UN says has given rise to the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 22.5 million people in need of aid.
Rights groups called on Macron this week to call for an end to the bombing campaign and lift the blockade against the country, citing the devastating impact on civilians.
France is a major arms supplier to the kingdom and some campaigners have accused it of failing to ensure that its weapons are not used in the Yemen campaign.
Amnesty International says it has documented dozens of Saudi-led coalition military operations that could amount to war crimes due to the deaths of more than 500 civilians.