Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) arrived in Greece Tuesday (July 27) where he met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The two leaders discussed bilateral cooperation issues and sealed a deal to lay an undersea data cable that will connect Europe with Asia. They also discussed the possibility of linking their power grids to supply Europe with cheaper green energy.
“We can provide Greece and Southwest Europe through Greece with much cheaper renewable energy and get an MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] signed about that today,” MBS said, sitting alongside Mitsotakis.
The Greek premier touted investment opportunities in tourist infrastructure, real estate, shipping, logistics, port infrastructure, noting the road and rail transport network serving the northeastern port of Alexandroupoli.
The trip comes less than two weeks after US President Joe Biden visited the Saudi city of Jeddah for a summit of Arab leaders and met one-on-one with MBS. Biden’s trip was derided by many critics as a pilgrimage made by a representative of a West in need of Saudi Arabia’s energy resources and influence in the global fossil fuels market.
MBS’s visit to Greece on Tuesday is his first to the European Union since the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Saudi-born US resident who wrote columns for the Washington Post critical of MBS and his policies, as well as the Saudi government.
MBS’ stay in Europe (he heads to France after Greece) represents a “highly symbolic move past his post-Khashoggi isolation”, Kristian Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the Baker Institute at Rice University told AFP. “While there has not been any formal coordination of policy in the ‘West’ against Mohammed bin Salman since 2018, the fact is that he has not visited any European or North American country since Khashoggi’s killing,” Ulrichsen said.
Observers also say that the current energy crisis has forced the West to become more accepting of the Saudi Prince.
MBS is 36 years old and has led his country for almost five years. One of the hundreds of grandchildren of the country’s founder, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, the prince is known for his super-sized ambitions, from Vision 2030 plan to diversify the oil-reliant economy, to waging the seven-year-old war in neighbouring Yemen.
With reporting by Reuters, AMNA, Kathimerini, AFP