The Golden Age for Saudi-French Relationships
18 March 2016
By Salman Aldosary
The ''Golden Age'', that is how a French official described the Saudi-French
bilateral relationships to Asharq Al-Awsat. The description summarizes the
vision convergence the two countries share on the majority of cases. France's
stances from regional cases, which are both abundant and complex, is much more
aligned with the Saudi perspective than other western countries; starting with
the Syrian crisis, the Iranian nuclear case file, Yemen, Libya, and finally
the fight on terrorism. Both France and Saudi Arabia are considered a main
element in the counter-terrorism mission for spreading both security and peace
on a regional and a world-wide scale.
Saudi-French consent was given to all the aforementioned and in an issued
statement following an official visit to France, Crown Prince Muhammad bin
Naif confirmed that both countries are prepared to continue and reinforce
bilateral cooperation, which plays well to the fight against extremism,
sectarian sedition, cuts off funding sources supporting terrorism, and limits
the phenomenon of violence in all its forms including ethnicity and religion.
Within less than two years the Riyadh-Paris connection was the most active in
comparison to the one shared with other European countries, starting with the
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz's visit to Paris
in September 2014. At the time, King Salman was still the crown prince.
The recent period also witnessed other significant visitations, like Deputy
Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman visiting Paris mid-2015, and now the
noteworthy official visit the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef has concluded in
Paris. Let alone all the other visits each of the French president, prime
minister, and minister of foreign affairs have paid Riyadh during the same
Riyadh wants to send out a clear message, not only to the French government,
but to all parties and forces, even the far-right ones, which is that Saudi
Arabia doesn't consider the French stances on the regional suits to be only
classified as an in between the lines approach. Relationships must be promoted
to reach strategic partnership in all of political, security, economic,
financial affairs, commercial, industrial, academic, and cultural domains.
Whenever political stances coincide furthermore, partnership reinforcement
draws closer for other domains which are beneficial to both sides. Riyadh did
not allow for the Lebanese aid cut to affect negatively on the relationship
with France, given that the aid was initially mediated with French
sponsorship. Saudi Arabia did not put the French government in a tight spot,
instead it confirmed that the artillery purchased would be transferred to the
Saudi Arabian army, and the contract with France will not be cancelled.
One cannot mention Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef visiting France without
pondering at the time it took place. The visit came consequent to efforts on
muddling the Saudi-French relationship after the Iranian President Hassan
Rouhani's visit, and the right winger's attempts on forcefully pushing for
reinforcement of ties with Tehran demanding what they call ''re-balancing''
taking over by implementation of different policies. However, the recent visit
confirms how anchored the Saudi-French partnership is, alternative to all the
disturbances, the visit attempted to further develop co-affairs and
encouraging more opportunities for both countries.
It should also serve as a reminder to mention that Saudi Arabia last year
signed contracts holding the value of 15 billion dollars with France, which
represent a crème de la crème state of affairs on the two countries'
partnership. As for the certainty on Iranian-French affairs, it is still
absent, and is considered by some French sources a ''virtual reality''.
The Saudi-French relationship, the first chosen station attended officially by
Crown Prince Muhammed bin Nayef after his assignment as Crown Prince, can
summarize the reflection on Riyadh's wish to form strategic partnerships based
on mutual benefit with several major world powers. Paris hasn't given anything
away to Riyadh for free, and vice versa. Anything presented to the other,
firsthand benefits the granter then the second party.
Salman Aldosary is the
editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.