French President Francois Hollande will become the first foreign head of state to attend a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in Riyadh on Tuesday.
“Hollande will first hold talks with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman on Monday, and then attend the GCC summit on Tuesday,” French Embassy spokesman Patrick Durel told Arab News.
He said Hollande would visit Doha on Monday before he heads to Riyadh the same day. The talks between King Salman and Hollande will mainly focus on the turmoil in the Middle East with special reference to Yemen, Iran, Syria and Iraq. “Hollande will also attend a dinner banquet to be hosted by King Salman on Monday night,” said a statement released by Elysee Palace.
The visit of Hollande to Riyadh will further reinforce the deepening of Saudi ties with major powers like France.
Referring to the agenda of the summit of GCC heads of state, a statement said that “the GCC leaders will hold consultations on key regional issues, while they prepare for the May 14 GCC-US summit.”
The Gulf leaders will also discuss “the latest regional and international developments, including the crisis in Yemen.”
“Tensions in the Middle East with conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Libya, as well as concerns of Iran’s growing influence in the area, will be taken up for discussions during the GCC summit,” said a Gulf diplomat.
“Yemen is also likely to present a proposal to be included as member in the GCC bloc,” according to Rajeh Badi, a spokesman of Yemen’s government.
According to the Elysee Palace statement, “Hollande travels to Doha on May 4 to hold talks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and sign contracts before heading to Riyadh at King Salman’s invitation to attend the GCC summit.”
In Doha, Hollande will also attend the signing ceremony of a contract under which Qatar has agreed to buy 24 Dassault Aviation-built Rafale fighter jets in a deal worth $7 billion. The deal comes as most of the Gulf states look to boost their firepower amid regional instability.
France, a UN Security Council veto-holder, has supported Gulf states to restore peace and security in the region. France has also played key role in slapping tough conditions on Iran in return for easing sanctions.
Political analysts said the timing of the meeting is significant as it comes ahead of talks between President Barack Obama and the GCC heads of state at Camp David.
On the sidelines of the GCC consultative summit in Riyadh, the French president is also expected to meet former Lebanese Premier Saad Al-Hariri. The talks between Hollande and Al-Hariri will focus on the presidential vacuum in Lebanon, a country without a head of state since May 2014.

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