Saudi Arabia will employ French expertise to set up a national opera and orchestra, under an agreement signed Monday during a visit to Paris by the kingdom's modernising Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Almost 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition joined the Yemen war in 2015, triggering what the United Nations has called the world's largest humanitarian crisis.
Macron hosted a gala send-off dinner for the crown prince at the Elysee Palace. 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. Highly anticipated Franco-Saudi cooperation deal for the development of Saudi city Al Ula, gifted with archaeological fragments, is also expected to be the main highlight of the visit.
While Salman was in France, a French lawyer filed a lawsuit in a Paris court against him, accusing him of complicity in torture in Yemen. Moreover, a visit to the Paris-based tech startup campus Station F and a concert in southern Aix-en-Provence, is also on the visit list.
Saudi Ambassador to Spain Prince Mansour said that the choice of Spain by the Crown Prince to include in his current visit to the major world powers showed the depth and strength of the bilateral relations that bind the two great nations.
He has already announced the lifting of a ban on women driving, the re-opening of cinemas for the first time in over three decades and new mixed-gender concerts despite opposition from religious hardliners.
"France is potentially an accomplice to serious violations of humanitarian laws by selling weapons and military equipment to Saudi Arabia", said Aurelie Perrier from Amnesty International at a protest near the Eiffel Tower.
"I can not think of a better partner for culture and art than France", Saudi Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad told AFP.
"The leadership of both countries share much in common".
On Monday evening, the Saudi heir held a surprise meeting with Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, as well Moroccan King Mohammed VI, which was revealed in a tweet by Hariri showing the three leaders smiling and dressed casually.
The crown prince, however, has emphasised closer ties with Washington just as Macron has sought to improve relations with Iran.
"Since the start of the conflict in Yemen, France has adopted a very specific process whereby all sales of military equipment are analysed on a case-by-case basis and on the basis of reinforced criteria that reflect respect for worldwide humanitarian law and the risk of harm to civilian populations", Macron said.