RIYADH: France was keen to further develop its position as a privileged partner in Saudi Vision 2030 megaprojects, the French envoy to the Kingdom has revealed.
Speaking at an event in Riyadh to mark France’s National Day, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ludovic Pouille said French companies were eager to contribute to the implementation of the ambitious Saudi reform plan.
Riyadh Deputy Gov. Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz was among guests attending Bastille Day celebrations at the ambassador's residence in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter.
Pouille said: “This day is an opportunity to celebrate the Saudi French friendship. I would like to thank King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their outstanding role in strengthening our strategic partnership.
“The visit of (French) President Emmanuel Macron to Jeddah on Dec. 4 last year enabled us to strengthen our political dialogue and to launch very ambitious cooperation in all areas: Four intergovernmental agreements were signed in key sectors of the Saudi Vision 2030, tourism, culture, digital, and space.
“On the economic front, during the Franco-Saudi business forum held on the sidelines of the president’s visit, 28 agreements were signed between French companies and Saudi institutions, worth more than SR50 billion ($13.31 billion).
“French companies want to be privileged partners in the megaprojects of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan: NEOM, AlUla, the Red Sea Project, Qiddiya, Amaala, Diriyah Gate, and the numerous development projects in the capital, in areas covering energy and infrastructure, tourism and entertainment, arts and culture, new technologies, and innovation.
“Through partnerships with Saudi companies, French companies bring their expertise, and contribute to the creation of qualified jobs for Saudis,” he added.
The envoy pointed out that the partnership established between France and Saudi Arabia in 2018 to develop the AlUla region in a sustainable and innovative way was an example of what the two nations could achieve together. And he noted that cooperation agreements in the heritage, infrastructure, smart mobility, security, water, and agriculture sectors had been strengthened following Macron’s visit.
Pouille said: “The joint decision to create the Villa Hegra, a Franco-Saudi cultural and artistic hub, will place AlUla at the summit of contemporary creation in the Middle East. I would like to salute the exceptional cooperation between the Royal Commission for AlUla, chaired by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, and the French Agency for AlUla Development, headed by Gerard Mestrallet.
“AlUla, a jewel of humanity, will become a world example of the enhancement of a 1,000-year-old heritage.”
He added that the July 14 national day celebrations offered an opportunity in France and all of its territories to recognize the values of the republic: Liberty, equality, and fraternity.
“These universal values have a particular resonance this year as war strikes Europe again for the first time in decades. At a time when Ukraine has been martyred for five months under Russian bombs, France, along with its EU and NATO allies, stands by the Ukrainian people.
“We will continue to support Ukraine until the Russian troops leave and Ukraine returns to full sovereignty.
“In the context of this global crisis, which has consequences all over the world, more than ever, we are counting on the historic relationship of friendship between France and Saudi Arabia.
“Together, we will continue to build a more secure Middle East and promote the values of peace, prosperity, and solidarity that unite us,” Pouille said.
The diplomat pointed out that as a major economic power, France was similar to Saudi Arabia in launching its own France 2030 investment plan for the future development of the country, particularly to support sectors of excellence including energy, automobile, aeronautics, and space.
“The strength of our economy makes France a very attractive place for foreign investment. France has held first place in Europe for the past three years, with 21 percent of all international investments creating jobs in Europe. I hope that Saudi investors will also seize these opportunities and choose France,” he added.
On the transformation of the Kingdom, the ambassador said: “Since my arrival in Saudi Arabia, I have been particularly impressed by the dynamism of Saudi youth and society as a whole.
“This year, the easing of (COVID-19) health restrictions have coincided with unprecedented cultural and sports programming in the Kingdom. France is proud to have participated in this momentum: A very strong French delegation was present at the first Red Sea Film Festival in December, French and Saudi orchestras played together for the first time; French and Saudi hip hop dancers performed together for the first time, the first music festival brought together French and Saudi artists, French DJs were present at the MDLBeast festival, and at the Formula One Grand Prix.
“I am convinced that art, music, and sport, which are universal languages by nature, are wonderful ways of bringing us together, French and Saudi.
“In a few days, the Saudi music legend Mohammed Abdou will sing at the Paris Opera. I hope that in the future France and Saudi Arabia will cooperate more in this field, at the heart of a common message of tolerance and openness,” Pouille added.