The indefinite postponement of Saudi King Abdullah's scheduled visit to the French capital last month does not bode well for France's efforts to considerably raise its profile in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and it could well dampen the supposed gains made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy's two visits to the desert kingdom last year.
Reports suggest that King Abdullah, who was to open an exhibition of Saudi antiquities at the Louvre museum in Paris during his proposed July 12 visit, canceled his trip in the wake of a controversy generated by an article that appeared on the Web site of Le Figaro newspaper June 30. The article quoted the king telling the French defense minister that "neither Iran nor Israel has a right to exist." The statement was subsequently denied by the official Saudi press agency and succeeded by a furor in Saudi diplomatic circles, who saw it as part of a deliberate leak by a section of the French establishment.
The damage soon extended to critical wide ranging talks on matters of defense cooperation as Assistant Defense Minister for Military Affairs Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz also canceled his own visit to Paris. It is now widely believed that King Abdullah is overseeing defense purchases personally.