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Middle East

French FM Ayrault in Saudi Arabia to discuss trade, regional conflicts

media Jean-Marc Ayrault(L) with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh AFP

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited Saudi Arabia on Monday and Tuesday to reinforce France's already strong ties with the oil-rich kingdom.

Ayrault on Monday met Saudi King Salman as part of a visit that would involve discussions on trade and the conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Libya.

France is the third biggest foreign investor in Saudi Arabia, which is planning to broaden the base of its economy beyond oil with its Vision 2030 plan.

Trade has increased under President François Hollande, with contracts worth 10 billion euros signed during a visit by then prime minister Manuel Valls and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in 2015.

Saudi seeks new partners

Riyadh is trying to diversify its partnerships beyond its traditional principal ally, the US, in order to counter the influence of Iran, with which it is fighting a battle of influence, backing different sides in the Yemeni and Syrian conflicts.

On Tuesday Ayrault visited the site of the future Riyadh metro, in which French engineering company Alstom is an investor as part of a consortium to build the network.

Ayrault was also due to meet Saudi business leaders.

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