Saudi Arabia’s crown prince arrived in Madrid on Wednesday on the last stop of his global diplomatic “charm offensive“.
Spain’s defence minister, Maria Dolores Cospedal greeted Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who serves as defence minister, at a military air base at Torrejon de Ardoz near Madrid, according to an AFPTV reporter at the scene.
Prince Mohammed is scheduled to meet with Spain’s King Felipe VI, who acceded to the throne in 2014, on Thursday morning before holding talks later in the day with Rajoy.
During his short visit Spain and Saudi Arabia are expected to sign five memorandums of understanding in the areas of culture, science, employment, air transport and defence, a Spanish foreign ministry source said.
El Pais reported earlier this week that Spain would likely make progress during his visit on a deal to sell five warships to Saudi Arabia for around two billion euros.
A coalition of NGOs including Amnesty International and Greenpeace urged Spain not to go ahead with the sale of the five corvettes because they could be used in Saudi Arabia’s devastating military campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed.
The Saudi prince’s trip to Spain comes after a three-day official visit to France and after a tour lasting several weeks of the United States, Britain and Egypt, where the self-professed moderniser signed multimillion-dollar deals – but also faced protests by activists over human rights abuses in his kingdom.
Despite nascent cultural reforms, Saudi Arabia remains one of the most repressive countries for women, and authorities execute a brutal crackdown on dissent.