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MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) - 02/09/2014
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(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, who is also deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, kicked off an official visit to Paris Monday evening by dining at the Elysee Palace at the invitation of French President Francois Hollande.

The Saudi Crown Prince is also having a number of high-level consultations with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday and Wednesday.

During the official dinner the Saudi official and Hollande discussed a series of issues of common concern and of vital importance in the Middle East, The Elysee said in a statement.

Hollande told Prince Salman that Saudi Arabia was a long-standing friend of France and "an exceptional and privileged partner" and he said he shared the Saudi view that "France and Saudi Arabia are coming closer together." He said Franco-Saudi ties were particularly close "on the political front" and the two nations shared common goals.

"Our common priority is peace and security in the Middle East," the French President affirmed.

Hollande outlined areas where France and Saudi Arabia had converging views, particularly on the Syria crisis.

"France and Saudi Arabia have been particularly lucid ... our two countries called for vgilance in the international community over what was happening in Syria where there have been 180,000 killed in three years ... but we were not sufficiently heard," Hollande said.

He said that the nations of the world must "support those who fight against the barbarism of Assad and that of the extremists and terrorists" in the region.

Hollande also indicated that France had decided to help Iraq "on the humanitarian and on the military front" but that Iraq must form the government and get a representative executive "to avoid partition and prevent chaos." Hollande reiterated his offer to host a conference of all those who want to join in efforts to combat extremist groups like the Islamic State.

In Lebanon, the President also stressed the good cooperation between Saudi Arabia and France in helping the Lebanese army and the demands for security in that country.

The French leader also outlined areas where there is ongoing cooperation between France and Saudi Arabia: economy, military, political, financial and human and he expressed optimism for the future ties between the two nations.

"We identified all the opportunities, they are numerous, and notably in the strategic and technological domains. All that remains for us is to implement these principles and commitments," Hollande stated.


Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)

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