The Saudi-French relationship supported by strategic cooperation
Saudi arabia– Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is now in France on a state visit, continuing a long tradition of frequent high-level interactions between the two friendly nations.
The numerous trips made by their leaders and officials in recent years show how strong the political relations and strategic alliance between France and Saudi Arabia are.
The crown prince of Saudi Arabia has made one trip to France since 2017. In the same time frame, both French President Emmanuel Macron and France’s foreign minister made three trips to Saudi Arabia.
In December 2021, as part of a trip of Gulf nations, President Macron met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah. This was the last official diplomatic visit.
France established its first diplomatic mission in the Arabian Peninsula at Jeddah in 1839, marking the beginning of formal ties between the two nations.
The first member of the royal family to travel on official business to France was Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz, who would later become king of Saudi Arabia, in 1919. When France recognized the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd, the predecessor of the united Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded in 1932, formal diplomatic relations were established. Prince Faisal returned to Paris in his capacity as foreign minister after France became one of the first nations to recognize the kingdom.
In 1967, King Faisal paid his first official state visit as the monarch of the Kingdom to French President Charles de Gaulle in Paris. The two nations have enjoyed a flourishing and closer-than-ever friendship since that time. They have signed a number of accords, ranging from economic and cultural cooperation to military support and advanced technology.
According to the website of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Kingdom’s relations with France are based on shared interests in “maintaining stability in a problematic region, a common commitment to combating terrorism, and a convergence of views on regional challenges.”
Strong commercial relations exist between Saudi Arabia and France, as evidenced by both their economic past and total trade volume. According to the Comtrade international trade database maintained by the UN, France imported goods worth $3.8 billion from Saudi Arabia in 2021 while exporting items worth $3.23 billion to the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s Banque Saudi Fransi, a joint stock company created in 1977 by royal order, is linked to the French Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank. The bank today has more than 100 locations throughout the Kingdom and more abroad.
Since its inception in 2003, the Saudi-French Business Council has discussed bilateral trade and investment at numerous meetings. The two nations have collaborated to help other countries by offering combined economic support, in addition to their commercial links.
Saudi Arabia and France created a joint development fund in April of this year, allocating $76 million for the improvement of internal security forces, electricity, water, and food safety in the conflict-torn country of Lebanon.
There may be no area of Saudi-French cooperation that is stronger or easier to observe than collaborative cultural and artistic endeavors. The development of the cultural and tourist destination AlUla will be a joint effort between the French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and the Saudi Arabian minister of culture, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, according to an intergovernmental agreement they signed in 2018.
Since the signing of this agreement, France and Saudi Arabia have collaborated closely and tirelessly to create AlUla. Additionally in 2018, the Royal Commission for AlUla inked a contract with Campus France to teach 68 Saudis for jobs in the hospitality industry. The following year, it was revealed that the location would house a five-star resort created by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel. The current French ambassador to the Kingdom, Ludovic Pouille, discussed the ongoing cultural collaboration with Arab News earlier this month.
According to him, the first Franco-Saudi archaeological dig was started in Mada’in Saleh in 2002 under the direction of French archaeologist Laila Nehme. The 20th anniversary of this collaboration, which has grown to include no fewer than 16 Franco-Saudi archaeological missions across the Kingdom, is being commemorated this year.He mentioned that various agreements had been reached recently to work with the French Football Federation to establish training facilities for Saudi kids.
A high-level French delegation from the entertainment industry was hosted by the Saudi-French Business Council in May of this year to talk about prospective French investment in the booming entertainment sector in the Kingdom.
The collaboration between France and the Kingdom in the field of education is far from limited to Campus France. Bertrand Besancenot, the then-French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, revealed in 2021 at a dinner in Riyadh that 1,500 Saudi students were enrolled in French universities at the time, and that many of these institutions had made agreements to increase the number of Saudi students studying there.
The two nations, both G20 participants, also have distinct goals for development and modernisation. The Saudi Vision 2030 was introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016, whereas the French Vision 2030 was introduced just a few months ago. Renewable energy transition, digital transformation, and sustained economic growth are the objectives of both strategies.