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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

France and Saudi Arabia agree on need to curb Iran's 'expansionism'

But Emmanuel Macron said he wants to see the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran preserved

French president Emmanuel Macron said his government agreed with Saudi Arabia on the need to curb Iranian ‘expansionism’, although he maintained that a global nuclear deal with Tehran must be preserved.

Speaking at the end of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s three-day visit to France, Mr Macron said there remained differences with Riyadh over the 2015 accord but that the two countries saw eye to eye on the need to "limit Iran's ballistic activity and regional expansionism".

"This strategic vision means reducing all the projects of expansionist political Islam which could feed other forms of terrorism and destabilise the region," the French president said.

Mr Macron also addressed the conflict in Yemen, saying France would not tolerate the continuing threat to Saudi Arabia from ballistic missiles launched by Houthi rebels, which many believe are supplied by Tehran.

Stressing the need for "respect for international humanitarian law", Mr Macron said "we will continue to be extremely vigilant on this point".

"It is obvious that we will not tolerate any ballistic activity that threatens Saudi Arabia."

The French president defended weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen but said he was concerned by the humanitarian situation, and would host a conference on the issue before the summer.

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“Between now and the summer a joint conference will be held on Yemen to clarify what is being done and what needs to be done,” he said.

When asked about civilian casualties, the crown prince said the coalition was doing everything to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen but that mistakes were inevitable in conflicts.

After a trip which has seen France and Saudi sign up for major cultural exchanges as well as discussions concerning war in the Middle East, companies from both countries signed draft deals worth a total of €14.5 billion (Dh65.9bn). The memorandums of understanding cover sectors including petrochemicals, water treatment, tourism, health, agricultural and cultural activities, the French-Saudi business forum said in a statement.

The crown prince’s visit will end with a dinner on Tuesday night, to which Lebanese prime minister Saad Al Hariri has been invited, a diplomatic move aimed at showing the young leader can play a mediator role in the region.