BY MOHAMMAD SHOEB
DOHA: A three-member high-level French delegation led by Senator Philippe Marini, chairman of the French-Gulf Countries Friendship Group, is on an official visit to Qatar to strengthen ties between the two countries.
The delegation yesterday held a host of meetings with several top government functionaries, including the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, H E Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani; Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage, H E Dr Hamad bin Abdul Aziz Al Kuwari; the Minister’s Assistant for Foreign Affairs, H E Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Mutib Al Rumaihi; and Attorney General Ali bin Futtais Al Marri.
“France shares excellent relations with Qatar in all fields, including economic, trade, diplomatic and culture. We are here as part of our official visit to Kuwait and Qatar to further strengthen and continue our strong bilateral ties for mutual benefit,” said Senator Marini, who is also president of the finance commission in the French parliament.
Speaking at a press conference, Marini said: “Qatar is one of the important partners of France in the region. It (Qatar) always comes in the forefront, like France, in resolving issues and challenges of regional and international significance.”
The other members of his delegation were Senator Alain Houper and Senator Bariza Khiari, who expressed their gratitude for the Arab hospitality and warm welcome they received during their visits to Qatar and Kuwait. Also present at the press conference was Jean-Christophe Peaucelle, the French ambassador to Qatar.
“This is my first visit to Qatar, and I would like to come again and again. I was surprised after seeing the level of development Qatar has achieved. We are ready to extend all possible support to Qatar in its efforts to achieve a well-developed and sustainable society,” said Houper.
Speaking on some negative reports on Qatar in a section of the French media, Marini, said: “These are part of the propaganda machinery of some fringe elements, especially from the extreme rightist group in France, who are envious of Qatar’s progress and development. They are very small in number and do not represent the popular voice of the country with regard to Qatar.”
Asked if they expected to sign any agreements for investment and cooperation, the senator said: “We have a scheduled meeting with some top officials of Qatar Investment Authority. There are a lot of areas for mutual cooperation such as defence, cybersecurity, education and many others.”
Laughing, he added: “Unfortunately, there is no scoop for the media. We are not here as sales representatives of companies. As the government’s official mission we are striving to continue and further deepen ties between France and Qatar.”
France is one of Qatar’s major trading partners in Europe. According to available data, trade volume between the two nations increased by nearly 20 percent in 2012 over 2011, and the bilateral trade volume amounted to more than QR9.1bn in 2011. The value of Qatari exports to France was estimated at QR6.4bn, led by distillation products and mineral fuels, while imports amounted to about QR2.7bn.