Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General, arrived in Paris yesterday with his accompanying delegation on an official visit to France.
Following Saudi-French talks held yesterday under the co-chairmanship of Prince Sultan and French Minister of Defense Charles Millon, the two ministers held a press conference. Expressing pleasure in welcoming the Saudi delegation, the French Defense Minister declared that Prince Sultan would be received today by French President Jacques Chirac and have talks with Prime Minister Alain Juppe and other officials. Describing the visit as affirming the strong relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and France, Minister Millon disclosed that a number of issues had been discussed, such as the situation concerning Iraq as well as bilateral concerns on strategy, training, and exchange of information.
In his speech, Prince Sultan thanked the French Defense Minister and the people of France for the warm reception, and referred to the long-standing friendship between the two countries that had been cemented in the historic 1967 meeting of King Faisal and General Charles De Gaulle, adding that the economic offset program the Kingdom started for its armed forces with the United States and the United Kingdom will be implemented in the same manner with France. Prince Sultan also made reference to joint ventures between the two countries involving the private sector.
In answer to a question on his talks in the United States, especially regarding Israel's recent actions in Jerusalem, Prince Sultan stated: "I think what I have felt from the U.S. government at all levels is a determination to reject this wrong approach." In reply to other questions, Prince Sultan hoped that progress would be made on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, and praised the role of France in the Middle East peace process.
Regarding Iraq, Prince Sultan said that Saudi Arabia and France both call for comprehensive implementation of the UN security council's resolutions, welcome Resolution 967 on food-for-oil, and desire peace and stability in the region.
Saudi Ambassador to France Faisal Hujeilan underscored the importance of the visit of Prince Sultan at a time when Saudi-French relations are undergoing significant development. Thanks to the wise policy adopted by Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, and Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard, the Kingdom has earned a good reputation at both regional and international levels, and Saudi-French relations have flourished, especially following the official visit to the Kingdom last July by French President Chirac.