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Saudi crown prince in first EU visit since Khashoggi killing

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens (Greek Prime Minister’s Office via AP)
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens (Greek Prime Minister’s Office via AP)

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has arrived in Greece on his first trip to a European Union country since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi triggered widespread international condemnation in 2018.

Bin Salman, who is traveling with a large government and business delegation, met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and will attend the signing of a series of bilateral investment and defence agreements.

Mr Khashoggi, a US-based journalist, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and his body was dismembered with a bone saw, according to Turkish officials.

A US intelligence report, made public last year, said the crown prince likely approved the killing but he has denied any involvement.

Saudi crown prince and Greek PM
The Saudi crown prince is signing a number of bilateral agreements in Athens (Greek Prime Minister’s Office via AP)

Greece has forged close ties with Saudi Arabia in recent years as it seeks allies in the wider region to address long-standing tension with neighbour Turkey, mostly over sea boundaries and drilling rights.

Last year, Greece and Saudi Arabia held joint military exercises out of the Greek island of Crete, and Athens lent the kingdom a missile battery from its Patriot air defence system.

“I promise you that when I come to Greece, I’m not coming empty-handed. We have many issues that will be game-changers for both our countries and for the whole region,” Bin Salman was quoted as saying in a transcript of his remarks distributed to reporters by the government.

He said the two countries were working on a project that would make “Greece a hub for Europe in terms of hydrogen (fuel),” but gave no further details.

Saudi crown prince
Mohammed bin Salman at the Acropolis Museum of Athens (Greek Prime Minister’s Office via AP)

Journalists were not invited to attend the meetings and were given no opportunity to ask the visiting Saudi royal questions.

The two countries are also planning a data cable link worth a reported 800 million euro (£675 million) that would run under the Mediterranean Sea and be completed in 2025.

The Saudi prince’s trip to Greece follows his meeting earlier with month in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with US President Joe Biden.

Mr Mitsotakis visited Saudi Arabia last October and met the crown prince who also later received visits from French President Emmanuel Macron and the outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson.