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Relations between France and Saudi Arabia are deeply strategic: Senator Olivier Cadic

Relations between France and Saudi Arabia are deeply strategic: Senator Olivier Cadic

By: Khaled Saad Zaghloul

Senator Olivier Cadic is respected by the French political and social class. He is an elite man in the French Parliament. He has free positions and refined encyclopedic culture. He is a senator in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Security for the French living outside France, and he is also the President of France and Gulf States Group in the Senate, elected on 28 September 2014, and re-elected on 26 September 2021,

He is a member of the Francophone Group, the Combatants and World Memory Group, the Digital Group, and a member of the Monitoring Group on Brexit and the re-establishment of the European Union.

 He is also a member of a fact-finding mission on the topic: “Influences of countries outside Europe on the French university,” 

Moreover, Cadic serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Institut Français and President of the National Association of French Enterprises Abroad (ANEFE).

The French-Saudi cooperation is historical and distinguished

  Can you tell us about the nature of France’s current relations with the Gulf states in general and Saudi Arabia in particular?

Olivier Cadic: Yes absolutely, in fact, France’s relations with the Gulf states go back to the early 1970s, when these countries, which were under British protection – except for Saudi Arabia, which was independent.

 France soon set up embassies there and relations developed in sensitive areas such as the import of oil and gas by our country and military issues.

 These rapprochements reached their climax in May 2015, when French President Francois Hollande was invited to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, the first for a non-Arab head of state, at which time new and important strategic partnerships were established. between France and the Gulf states.

Although formerly an exclusively Anglo-Saxon area of ​​influence, our country France now occupies a recognized economic and political position in the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and through close and regular ties, fueled by common interests.

 It now appears that the relative disengagement of the United States from the region reinforces the importance of these French-Gulf relations, as evidenced by the recent visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to the region.

We can say that with Saudi Arabia, France maintains a previous and special relationship compared to other Gulf countries.

 Our history with it goes back to the nineteenth century, with the opening of a consulate in Jeddah in 1841, and the intensity and momentum of relations increased in the second half of the twentieth century, especially since the meeting of President Charles de Gaulle and King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 1967.

Today, France and Saudi Arabia are closely and distinctly linked in many sectors.

The political relations between our two countries are based primarily on common strategic interests, most notably: maintaining security in a troubled region, a joint fight against terrorism, and convergence of views on regional crises.

 As for the military and security field, they are united by a historic defense partnership, while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is our first client in the arms market.

Also in the economic sector, bilateral cooperation is increasing significantly, driven by the intersecting opportunities represented by our two countries in the Kingdom’s “Vision 2030” program and the “France 2030” economic plan.

Also in the field of culture and tourism, the French-Saudi relations have continued to grow, especially in the development of museums and heritage, as evidenced by the fruitful cooperation underway for sustainable development in the region and we see this clearly in the intergovernmental agreement signed in April 2018.

 You accompanied the President of the French Republic during his recent visit to the Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia: What is your assessment of this trip?

President Macron’s visit has led to impressive economic results for both countries and will boost employment in France! As part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), will invest about $40 billion annually by 2025.

Our companies have to mobilize themselves to be positioned in a large number of Saudi sectors where we can demonstrate excellent French knowledge – and expertise in the areas of sustainable cities, renewable energy, green finance, urban transport, hydrogen, health, etc., and contribute to the hoped-for Saudi renaissance.

In parallel with the visit of the President of the Republic, Minister Frank Riester in charge of Foreign Trade and Attraction organized a business forum that brought together 80 French companies.

As a result, some important contracts were signed, including one worth 400 million euros from Airbus Helicopters, another worth 11 billion euros from Safran for the supply of engines for aeronautics, and even a contract for the management of Riyadh waters awarded to Veolia for 80 million euros.

Since then, a large number of projects under negotiation have begun to bear fruit, since we have already signed about twenty cooperation contracts in various sectors of activity. Our delegation returned to Paris proud of having witnessed the rise of French industrial excellence to such a height.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a candidate to organize the World Expo 2030 in Riyadh. How do you see this candidacy, which is also part of the Vision 2030 plan promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?

– I visited the Saudi Arabia Pavilion last November and it impressed me.

 In fact, from the outset, this pavilion received the highest attendance in Dubai, which is real proof of the Kingdom’s attractiveness, ability, and efficiency, as a candidate to organize the World Expo 2030.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia has been honored several times for the quality of its pavilions in previous exhibitions of this kind. Therefore, I am pleased that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a candidate for this major global event.

It has all the resources and skills to organize this type of event in Riyadh in the best possible way to ensure its great success, through the best reception and the greatest degree of security, both for the exhibiting delegations and for the exhibiting delegations where millions of visitors are expected.

In addition, the theme is chosen for this event in 2030 – “The Age of Change: Leading the World Toward Tomorrow with a Long Vision” – appears ambitious and fully in line with current and future international developments.

France currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union for 6 months. What is the current state of the relationship between the European Union and the Gulf states?

– Yes, the relationship is vital and very important for both parties. The relations between the European Union and the Gulf states date back to the time of the establishment of the union, i.e. in the fifties of the last century, and it was institutionalized by the cooperation agreement dated February 25, 1989, between the union and the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the strategy for the union.

 Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East concluded in June 2004, which promotes political, economic, and social reforms.

In the six months of the French presidency of the European Union, it seems to me that President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to get Europe and France to play their part in the “force of balance”, according to the formula the president used in his inaugural address, at the 2019 Ambassadors’ Conference.

 In this sense, the “strategic compass”, must define the main European directions in terms of security and defense and implement them during the French presidency of the Union, so that it must aim to strengthen peace and security in the Gulf region, and more broadly in the Middle East, in close cooperation with various countries concerned.

Moreover, the High Representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, last September, during a meeting with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, called for a rapprochement between the two councils to contribute to “reducing tensions in the region” and for increasing exchanges and cooperation “in strategic areas of mutual interest” such as economic recovery, digital transformation, respect for the environment, and the fight against terrorism and extremism.

What role does the Senate play in the Gulf region? How is inter-parliamentary cooperation organized with your counterparts in these countries?

 The Senate carries out various types of Gulf-related activities through its many organs.

The President of the Senate, Mr. Gerard Larcher, has visited certain countries in the region and has on various occasions welcomed some of their leaders or political leaders.

As you know, I was elected president of the Friendship Group (France-Gulf) at the end of 2020, succeeding my colleague, Senator Jean-Marie Bockel, and I made 19 visits to the Gulf countries within 7 years.

Our friendship group has 46 members who represent all political sensitivities in the Senate. It carries out many bilateral cooperation activities with counterpart groups in the parliaments of the Gulf states.

In 2021, we met all the ambassadors in France for each of these countries, during interviews that enabled us to address the different aspects of the bilateral relationship.

Concerning Saudi Arabia in particular, which I visited twice last year and once this year, I had the honor of meeting many members of the government.

We had the honor of meeting Prince Faisal bin Farhan at the Paris Senate for an exchange in the Senate Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee room, where we regularly hear and question the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly.

 Our parliamentary group’s last trip to Saudi Arabia was in 2016, with another trip to the country planned this year to further strengthen ties.

We stand in solidarity with the people of Saudi Arabia in the face of the constant threats of the Houthis

Saudi Arabia launched a large-scale military operation in Yemen on Saturday, December 25, in response to a bloody attack claimed by the Houthi rebel group. How does France act to end this conflict?

Above all, I would like to express my sincere solidarity with the people of the Kingdom who live under the constant threat of missile or drone attacks and assure your government of my full support in finding a solution to this conflict.

The war in Yemen, which is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster according to the United Nations, appears above all a real tragedy.

 We regret the deaths of 400,000 people there since the conflict began, according to the data of the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Need humanitarian assistance and protection.

At the political level, many believe that there will be no military solution and that only negotiation with all parties involved will lead to a lasting solution to the crisis.

In this conflict, it seems to me that France intends to work in every possible way to reduce the tensions between the belligerents, along with its international partners, following its role as a permanent member of the Security Council. And through the basic principles of its diplomacy.

The goal should be the cessation of hostilities against the Saudi people and the resumption of discussions under the auspices of the United Nations, to reach a global and comprehensive political agreement that restores peace in Yemen and the region.

As a co-rapporteur on the adoption of reports (SGDSN and ANSSl) and responsible for the security policy of the country’s information systems, you have established the cyber threat situation for the year 2022 that hangs over France … Can you give us the main conclusions of your report?

Cyber-attacks effectively represent a new type of threat that is likely to affect many influential sectors (hospitals, local authorities, departments, companies, especially smaller ones, associations, private citizens, etc.), which are difficult to identify and repel It is difficult to act due to its transnational nature.

Unfortunately, as we expected, the threat situation is not receding. On the contrary, malicious cyber actions such as ransomware, espionage by certain forces, or even acts of sabotage have increased. According to our report, during the first nine months of 2021, the number of recorded cyberattacks doubled compared to 2020.

ANSSI has been tasked with an envelope of 136 million euros to implement the “Cyber ​​Security Acceleration Strategy” launched in February 2021. At the end of the year, the government created a new agency called ( VIGINUM ) We were pleased that this government agency will have the task of exposing disinformation on Internet platforms and informing the public authorities.

In 2020, I produced a report, “Disinformation, Cyber ​​Attacks, and Cyber ​​Maliciousness, The Other War of COVID-19,” which called for the creation of a “rapid response force” against false information. The establishment of this structure, which I have advocated for years, is an important step forward that, following the vote on the December 2018 law against information manipulation, complements our anti-manipulation system.

What was your reaction after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the outbreak of war?

– Many of us were in the Senate on the afternoon of March 23, all of our political and party colors showed our solidarity with the brave Ukrainian people, and we heard a message from the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, and welcomed him with warm applause. It was a solemn moment, unprecedented circumstances for the first time in our parliamentary history, We welcome the president of a country at war because what is not acceptable is for a war to happen in Europe, at the gates of the European Union, a war in Ukraine.

The President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, has found the words to describe the unique and tragic case that the two chambers of the French Parliament, the National Assembly, and the Senate have assembled at the same time, said Larcher, addressing the President of Ukraine: Your people, Mr. President, are admirable in your war, Ukraine also defends About our values: the values ​​of democracy, humanity, freedom, and European civilization… His words summed up what we feel concerning Russian aggression.

Indeed, everything must be done to compel Russia to stop the war it is waging in Ukraine. I want to reiterate France’s support for Ukraine and the Ukrainians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not only attacking Ukraine, but he is also attacking freedom and democracy, and in the end, he will lose. Everyone heard President Macron speak and he said that history has changed and that the President of Ukraine was right

The Ukrainian people chose him to be their ruler, they chose democracy, and this Putin cannot tolerate, to have a democratic system on its borders in which the citizen can breathe freely.

I think that Putin rejected democracy in Ukraine, so he decided to invade it. We fear for the Ukrainians, as they lose lives every day during the bombings and attacks of the Russian invasion of their country.

How do you see President Macron’s response?

– There is general satisfaction with the position of President Macron. He spoke to the French nation, parliament, and political leaders. He consulted the former French presidents, Nicolas Sarkozy, and François Hollande, in this regard. He spoke a lot to Putin and told him that he brought the war to Europe, which was safe, and reminded us of the painful memories.

 Macron began with the methodology of dialogue and taking advantage of the time to communicate with Putin and mediate for Zelensky to avoid escalation and confrontation.

Macron still holds hope for dialogue to convince Putin that there is another path, but unfortunately, now the path is closed this is an alarm bell, but President Macron is right to think and talk with Putin.

France will remain in solidarity with the Ukrainians and Ukraine because they have been attacked. They enjoy a democratic system and the European Union. There is also international and global solidarity. Britain, Australia, America, Japan, all of these countries stand in solidarity with them.

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