His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received yesterday at Bayan Palace His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. HH the Premier sought permission from His Highness the Amir to go on an official visit to France. —KUNA
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received yesterday at Bayan Palace His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. HH the Premier sought permission from His Highness the Amir to go on an official visit to France. —KUNA

KUWAIT: His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah’s visit to France today will further contribute to the 50 years of strong bilateral relations.

HH the Prime Minister will lead a large delegation for talks at various levels in Paris tomorrow and Wednesday. He will meet with President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls and senior members of the Cabinet, including Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Relations between France and Kuwait date back to August 28th, 1962, with official diplomatic ties established in April of 1964 through the appointment of the first French Ambassador to Kuwait.

The strength of Kuwaiti-French relations was evident during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August of 1990. France backed up its political stance with a strong contribution to the military operation against the Iraqi regime. Paris sent some 18,000 troops to partake in the desert storm operation which led to the liberation of Kuwait. In a gesture of appreciation, His Highness the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah visited France after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, thanking the European nation for its just stance against the Iraqi occupiers.

France hails ties
Ahead of the visit of HH the Prime Minister’s visit to France, France said it wants to further develop “deep partnership” it enjoys with Kuwait and it praised HH the Amir for “his major role” in promoting peace in the region.

“This visit will be an opportunity to strengthen even more our bilateral relations in the broad domains they cover,” said Romain Nadal, Director of Communications-Press and Official Spokesman at the French Foreign Ministry.

The senior French official praised the multiple and growing contacts between France and Kuwait and indicated that a number of accords would be concluded during the forthcoming visit.

“This year has been rich in exchanges at very high levels,” Nadal remarked, noting that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had been to Kuwait in January for “a much-remarked” visit and had clearly expressed the desire “to give more depth to the partnership between our two countries.”

In the past four years, there have been 13 ministerial visits between France and Kuwait, going in both directions, and there have been a number of other high-level contacts in the parliamentary, finance and military areas since 2011.

France has long pointed to the “excellent political relations” that exist with Kuwait, but Paris also has noted in the past that economic ties were lagging and an effort should be made to boost the economic aspects of the partnership to the high level of constant political relations.

“The partnership is characterized today by the exceptional depth of our political contacts,” the French official said, also noting the close cooperation in “the fight against terrorism and in exchanges between (the two) peoples, and in the area of trade.”

In an effort to bolster “human exchanges,” he indicated that France was working to improve and speed up visa policies with many countries and that Kuwaitis can now get tourist visas within 48 hours through the French embassy in Kuwait.

In 2006, the current ruler of the State of Kuwait His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah made France his first stop on his visit to Europe, reflecting the strong ties linking the two friendly nations. In reciprocation, the former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, paid an official visit to Kuwait in 2009, thus bolstering the strategic partnership between the two countries.

For his part, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Ali Al-Ghanim also paid a formal visit to Paris in January 2014, during which he expressed hope that the Kuwaiti-French relations would be bolstered further, particularly at the economic and commercial levels. In October 2009, the two countries signed a security cooperation treaty, according to which Paris supplied military equipment to Kuwait. Among the delivered arms were gunboats and gunship helicopters-that is in addition to France’s obligation to safeguard Kuwait’ security and support its just causes.

Economic partnership
On the economic level, Kuwait considers France as a major partner with commercial exchange reaching around $2.5 billion in 2014. Kuwaiti exports to France in 2014 reached $750 million with 95 percent being oil products. France exports to Kuwait in the same year reached 500 million euro.

Kuwait Airways had worked out a deal with France to buy 25 Airbus aircraft. In a step to further develop the relations, France established back in January the French commercial mission in Kuwait as an effort to coordinate French companies’ involvement in the Gulf country. More recently, French companies got involved in Kuwait’s ambitions development plan with two entities developing the southern and northern Al-Zour power stations. France is a major destination for Kuwaiti recreation seekers. The French embassy issued up to 50,000 visas for Kuwaitis in 2014. -KUNA