March 21, 2018 / 12:09 PM / a year ago

Saudi Crown Prince to visit France as Macron juggles relations - source

Saudi Arabia's then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reacts upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 24, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/Files

PARIS (Reuters) - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expected to visit France from April 8-10, a French source familiar with details of the arrangements said on Wednesday, as President Emmanuel Macron treads a delicate line in mediating regional relationships.

The visit comes at a complicated moment in French-Saudi relations. Former president Francois Hollande nurtured closer ties with Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states, in particular Saudi Arabia, as Paris took a tough stance on Iran during nuclear negotiations.

However, the 32-year-old Saudi crown prince has in past months emphasised closer ties with U.S. President Donald Trump just as Macron has sought to improve relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite rival for regional influence.

Prince Mohammed is currently in the United States, having already visited Britain earlier this month.

The visit to Paris is likely to draw the attention of humanitarian groups and some French lawmakers who have been outspoken over the possibility that French arms sold to the kingdom are being used in Yemeni conflict.

Challenges magazine said the prince would take part in an economic forum, which would be attended by chief executives from several companies of both countries.

Macron’s office declined to comment. The Saudi embassy in Paris was not immediately reachable.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Richard Lough

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