'North Thunder' sends a message of unity, power

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Updated 18 February 2016

'North Thunder' sends a message of unity, power

HAFR AL-BATIN: North Thunder, the ongoing military maneuver in Saudi Arabia, is a message to the world that the Kingdom will not be a passive observer to the massacres of civilians and mayhem in Syria and Iran’s ambitions in the region, political observers have said.
According to unofficial sources, around 150,000 soldiers, 2,540 warplanes, 20,000 tanks, and 460 helicopters are participating in the largest military exercise in the history of the region.
Twenty Arab and Muslim countries and the GCC-formed Peninsula Shield are participating in the drill, led by Saudi Arabia.
A spokesman for the Arab coalition forces, Ahmad Assiri, said the aim of the exercise is to achieve the highest level of preparedness, exchange expertise and promote coordination among the participating countries.
Political observers and experts said the military exercise aims at delivering certain indirect messages at the regional and international levels, along with reaching a high level of readiness among the participating armed forces. The stage chosen for the exercise, Hafr Al-Batin in northern Saudi Arabia, adjacent to Iraq, near Iran and Syrian is also a strategic move they said.
Hafr Al-Batin is in the Eastern Province, located 430 km north of Riyadh and 94.2 km from the Kuwaiti border. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst, said, “The maneuver, which is a strong message for Iran, seeks to unify the military forces of Arab and Islamic countries. It is the first real maneuver after the Kingdom’s announcement of the formation of a 34-nation Islamic alliance against terrorism last December.”
Al-Shehri said that the Saudi government expressed its willingness for ground intervention in Syria after observing international inaction in stopping the massacres in Syria. The move will force Iran to review its regional ambitions, he said.
The Kingdom has officially launched Twitter account, @DiraAlwatan, to cover the North Thunder exercise moment by moment, in Arabic, English and French. The first tweet included information about the drill led by Saudi Arabia to highlight the high combat capabilities of these countries.
Meanwhile, Emirati troops arrived at King Khalid Military City in Hafr Al-Batin on Monday night.
The 20 countries are: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Bahrain, Senegal, Sudan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Chad, Tunis, Djibouti, Comoros, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia Egypt, Mauritania, Mauritius.

A history of Saudi-French relations

Updated 4 min 33 sec ago

A history of Saudi-French relations

  • Diplomatic relations between France and Saudi Arabia have thrived over time

Diplomatic relations between France and Saudi Arabia, encompassing all aspects of mutually beneficial cooperation from trade and cultural agreements to defense pacts, have thrived over time. 

Key Dates

  • 1

    France opens a consulate in Jeddah, its first diplomatic post in the Arabian Peninsula.

  • 2

    Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the future king of Saudi Arabia, is the first member of the royal family to pay an official visit to France.

  • 3

    Full diplomatic relations begin when France becomes one of the first countries to recognize the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd, the forerunner to the unified Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, established in 1932.

  • 4

    Having remained officially neutral throughout the Second World War, while supplying oil vital to the French and Allied war effort, Saudi Arabia symbolically declares war on Germany and Japan.

  • 5

    In his role as Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal visits Paris after France becomes one of the first countries to recognize the new Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

    Timeline Image 1932
  • 6

    Having remained officially neutral throughout the Second World War, while supplying oil vital to the French and Allied war effort, Saudi Arabia symbolically declares war on Germany and Japan.

  • 7

    Following the invasion of Egypt by France, Britain and Israel, King Saud bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud severs diplomatic relations with France and Britain and halts oil shipments to both countries.

  • 8

    Diplomatic relations with France and Britain are restored.

  • 9

    France and Saudi Arabia sign a cultural and technical cooperation agreement.

  • 10

    The École Française Internationale opens in Jeddah, the first of a series of French schools that have since opened in the Kingdom.

    Timeline Image 1966
  • 11

    France condemns Israeli aggression; King Faisal visits French President Charles de Gaulle in Paris on his first state visit as ruler of Saudi Arabia.

    Timeline Image June 1967
  • 12

    Saudi Arabia and France sign a military assistance agreement.

  • 13

    King Faisal makes a state visit to France, where he is received by President Georges Pompidou.

    Timeline Image October 1973
  • 14

    In a speech on a state visit to Riyadh, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the first French president to visit Saudi Arabia, salutes the Kingdom as a world power.

    Timeline Image January 1977
  • 15

    King Khaled bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud issues a royal decree approving a license for setting up Banque Saudi Fransi (named then Al Bank Al Saudi Al Fransi).

  • 16

    King Khaled travels to Paris on his first state visit to France.

    Timeline Image 1978
  • 17

    France sends equipment and military advisers to help Saudi special forces end the siege of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

  • 18

    French President Giscard d’Estaing again visits Riyadh.

    Timeline Image March 1980
  • 19

    Newly elected French President Francois Mitterrand’s first official visit outside Europe is to Riyadh.

    Timeline Image September 1981
  • 20

    King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud makes his first state visit to France as ruler of Saudi Arabia.

    Timeline Image 1984
  • 21

    1996: Saudi Arabia and France agree upon a wide-ranging strategic partnership.

  • 22

    Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, governor of the Riyadh province and future king of Saudi Arabia, meets French President Jacques Chirac in Paris and signs a charter of cooperation and friendship between Riyadh and Paris.

    Timeline Image April 1997
  • 23

    The Saudi-French Business Council is founded.

  • 24

    Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud makes an official visit to Paris.

    Timeline Image April 2005
  • 25

    French President Jacques Chirac becomes the first western leader to address the Majlis in Saudi Arabia during a state visit.

    Timeline Image March 2006
  • 26

    France and Saudi Arabia sign a defense cooperation agreement.

  • 27

    King Abdullah returns to Paris for an official visit with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    Timeline Image June 2007
  • 28

    French President Sarkozy begins a two-day state visit to Saudi Arabia, which includes the signing of a cooperation agreement in the oil, gas and mining resources sectors.

    Timeline Image January 2008
  • 29

    Alliance Française, the organization dedicated to teaching French as a second language, opens offices in Saudi Arabia.

  • 30

    Newly elected French President François Hollande visits King Abdullah in Jeddah to discuss regional issues and continuing cooperation between the two countries.

    Timeline Image November 2012
  • 31

    President Hollande, accompanied by French business leaders, meets King Abdullah in Riyadh on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss commercial cooperation and to pledge that the two countries “will work for peace, security and stability in the Middle East.”

    Timeline Image December 2013
  • 32

    Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, deputy prime minister and the future king of Saudi Arabia, makes a four-day official visit to France.

    Timeline Image Sept. 1, 2014
  • 33


    Timeline Image January 2015
  • 34

    President Hollande meets King Salman in Riyadh and addresses the first-ever summit between the Gulf Cooperation Council and France, pledging “to work with all my force to deepen this relationship and strategic partnership, with your member states and with your organization, at all levels.”

    Timeline Image May 5, 2015
  • 35

    Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman meets President Hollande in Paris as France and Saudi Arabia sign trade deals worth $12 billion.

    Timeline Image June 2015
  • 36

    A delegation of the Saudi-French Parliamentary Friendship Committee of the Shura Council meets Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the two nations.

    Timeline Image May 15, 2016
  • 37

    French President Emmanuel Macron makes a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman following an Iran-backed Houthi missile attack on Riyadh and to pledge to “work with Saudi Arabia for the purpose of guaranteeing stability in the region and the fight against terrorism.”

    Timeline Image November 2017
  • 38

    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a guest at a gala dinner at the Élysée Palace on a three-day visit to Paris to meet President Emmanuel Macron and secure contracts between French and Saudi companies worth $18 billion.

    Timeline Image April 2018
  • 39

    In Paris, in the presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic, sign an intergovernmental agreement to collaborate on the development of AlUla as a major cultural and tourism destination.

    Timeline Image April 10, 2018
  • 40

    The Royal Commission for AlUla signs an agreement with Campus France to train Saudis who will work in hospitality at AlUla.

  • 41

    The French agency Afalula is founded in Paris to support the development of AlUla.

  • 42

    The AlUla tourism project is launched with plans for a luxury resort designed by French Pritzker-prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, due to open by 2023.

  • 43

    “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia,” an exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, highlights the Kingdom’s cultural treasure.

    Timeline Image October 2019
  • 44

    French President Emmanuel Macron is among the world leaders who attend a virtual extraordinary meeting of the G20 focused on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and hosted by King Salman.

    Timeline Image March 2020
  • 45

    France condemns a missile and drone attack on Riyadh by Yemen’s Houthi militia.