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Saudi prince skips French tech incubator visit

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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reacts upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France in this June 24, 2015. Reuters

PARIS, (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman yesterday pulled out of touring a mega-campus for tech startups in Paris, an official in the French prime minister’s office said, a visit that was meant to highlight deepening Franco-Saudi tech ties.

The powerful young prince who is behind modernising reforms in Saudi Arabia is on a three-day trip to France at a time when relations between the two countries have become more complicated, including over how to address Iran’s regional role.

He is not expected to sign mega contracts in France as he did during visits to the US and Britain over the last month.

“It has been decided to keep working on defining Franco-Saudi entrepreneurial projects before envisaging a high-level visit,” the Matignon source said.

Prince Mohammed, 32, and President Emmanuel Macron both paint themselves as champions of their nations’ plugged-in youths with a modernising message that has resonated strongly with younger Saudis and French citizens.

Prince Mohammed’s decision to skip a visit to Station F, Europe’s largest startup incubator founded by billionaire Xavier Neil, is likely to disappoint Mr Macron, especially after the crown prince met with technology titans in Silicon Valley last week.

Station F is headed by an Iranian-American, Roxanne Varza, who previously worked at TechCrunch France and Microsoft Ventures.

The prince, who is also defence minister, is due to meet the French foreign and defence ministers later today and attend an event at the Institute of the Arab World this evening.

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