Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat- High-ranking French sources have told Asharq Al Awsat that Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Sultan Bin Abdulaziz will take part in an official visit to France beginning 19 July, 2006 that will be “mainly political and part of the strategic and distinguished relations” between Paris and Riyadh.
The sources added, “The visit will provide an opportunity for the two sides to hold extensive consultations on various aspects of bilateral relations, including military and defense cooperation, major regional issues such as the situation in the Gulf, Iraq and Iran, the situation in the Palestinian territories, the Lebanese-Syrian file, terrorism, and other matters.”
The sources praised the “distinguished personal relations” between French President Jacques Chirac and the Saudi leadership and the eagerness of the two countries to benefit from the relationship “in order to give new impetus” to bilateral relations.
According to the French sources, the “necessary groundwork” for efforts to achieve this goal is “in place,” as the two countries “share the same views” on political issues concerning the region, including stability in Iraq, dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, and the future of security and stability in the Gulf region.
The French sources emphasized that Paris “seeks to use Prince Sultan’s visit to hold in-depth talks on key political and strategic issues” that concern the region. The sources praised Saudi Arabia’s role on the Gulf, Arab, and Islamic levels.
The sources also praised Saudi policy, which is based on openness to the world’s powers. In this respect, they referred to China, India, Southeast Asian countries, and others, which senior Saudi leaders recently visited.
The French sources say that Paris wants to use its expertise and knowledge to contribute to huge development projects in various spheres, which Saudi Arabia intends to implement in the upcoming years, including infrastructure, oil, gas, and service projects.
These sources recalled that during the French president’s most recent visit to Saudi Arabia, he was eager to accompany the heads of the largest French companies that operate in a large number of economic sectors.
The French sources pointed out that the existing defense cooperation between Paris and Riyadh and the programs relating to this cooperation “represent the strong relationship between the two sides and are the result of this relationship.”
In this regard, the sources referred to the cooperation between the two sides that as well as the export of French defense equipment to Saudi Arabia, includes training, joint exercises, and exchange of visits.