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Rights groups pressure Macron ahead of Saudi prince visit to France

By Reuters - Apr 04,2018 - Last updated at Apr 04,2018

PARIS, France — Ten rights groups urged French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday to use a visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to press him to end a blockade of Yemeni ports and work for a diplomatic solution to the conflict there.

Pressure is mounting on Macron to scale back military support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are leading the coalition against the Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls most of northern Yemen and the capital Sanaa.

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than three million. 

With Prince Mohammed arriving in France on Sunday for a three-day visit, lawmakers and rights groups want Macron to suspend weapons sales to the two countries, which are among its biggest purchasers. 

“The bombing of civilians in Yemen must stop, and we call on all sides in the conflict to stop them immediately,” Anne Hery of Handicap International said. 

“Ahead of the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed, President Macron has a choice: protect civilians or sell weapons.”

Some European countries, notably Germany, have curtailed ties with the Saudi-led military coalition. But France, Britain and the United States have not followed suit.

However, Paris has grown increasingly concerned by a worsening humanitarian situation, and in December, Macron called for a “complete lifting” of a Saudi blockade on Yemen.

Prince Mohammed’s visit comes at a delicate moment in French-Saudi relations. Ex-president Francois Hollande nurtured closer ties with Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states, in particular Saudi Arabia. 

“Prince Salman deserves neither the Legion d’Honneur nor the red carpet, he deserves sanctions,; said Benedicte Jeannerod, director of Human Rights Watch in France. 

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