President Sarkozy concludes official visit to Saudi Arabia

January 14, 2008

French President Nicolas Sarkozy concluded his two-day state visit to Saudi Arabia today. It was his first visit to the Kingdom since assuming the presidency in May, and the first stop on a three-nation tour of the Arabian Gulf.

Last night, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and President Sarkozy co-chaired official talks at the royal palace in Riyadh. King Abdullah opened the meeting by presenting Sarkozy with the King Abdulaziz Medal, an honor that is awarded to world leaders and heads of state.

During their talks, the two leaders discussed ways of boosting cooperation between Saudi Arabia and France. They also reviewed key international issues, including the situation in Palestine, the Middle East peace process, the political crisis in Lebanon and the situation in Iraq.

Four agreements were signed during the visit, overseen by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz. One dealt with cooperation between the foreign ministries of both countries. A second related to training and rehabilitation, focusing on areas where Saudi youth could receive training in France. A third agreement dealt with higher education and scientific research, while a fourth focused on the energy sector.

Today, Sarkozy met separately with Crown Prince Sultan, who hosted a luncheon in the president’s honor, and attended the opening of the Saudi-French Business Council.

The French president also paid a visit to the Shoura (Consultative) Council. In an address to the Council, Sarkozy highlighted Saudi Arabia’s important role in the Muslim world as the cradle of Islam and the guardian of Islam’s holy sites. The president praised King Abdullah’s leadership and policies, including his support for just causes in the Middle East, counterterrorism efforts, and dedication to cultural dialogue. He also underscored France’s support for resolving the crisis in Lebanon and for building peace in the Middle East.

Before departing Riyadh, President Sarkozy also visited the King Abdulaziz Historical Center, where he was welcomed by Governor of Riyadh Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz.