KUWAIT: Ambassador of France to Kuwait Anne-Claire Legendre speaks to the local media yesterday. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Ambassador of France to Kuwait Anne-Claire Legendre lauded Kuwait for the critical role it played as a key regional mediator in bringing about reconciliation amongst GCC states. Speaking to the local media at her residence in Jabriya yesterday, Legendre said Paris welcomes this result very warmly. “We hope it will bring further positive results for regional stability. Kuwait has been playing a critical role in these negotiations and we would not be where we are today without Kuwait’s mediation role,” she said.

Asked whether Kuwait could play a bigger role in other important regional issues, Legendre said Kuwait, through its GCC reconciliation efforts, had proven itself as a key regional mediator, upholding a long tradition of Kuwait being able to speak to all powers in the region and finding ways towards dialogue and reconciliation.

Speaking to local reporters for the first time after presenting her credentials to HH the Amir on Dec 22, 2020, Legendre expressed readiness to work with Kuwait in all areas. “I am glad to meet the members of the press for the first time. We are looking forward to working side by side with the authorities here in 2021. Our relationship with Kuwait is a deeply-grounded historic partnership. We not only enjoy a very strong political relationship, but also in security, economy, culture and beyond,” she said.

“2021 will be a very important year for all of us. We start with renewed ambitions, especially for French-Kuwait relations, because we are going to celebrate two important celebrations and anniversaries. Thirty years ago, France was part of the liberation of Kuwait, so we are celebrating this very important commitment by France to Kuwait’s security, a commitment that has continued. On January 16, 1991, President Francois Mitterrand announced that France was ready to enter military operations against Iraqi soldiers who had invaded Kuwait,” Legendre said.

“Fourteen thousand French soldiers were involved in the liberation (of Kuwait) 30 years ago and 10 were killed, so this is something that will be commemorated as well in France,” she added. Ambassador Legendre indicated that she expected more high-level visits to Kuwait this year, noting that a strategic dialogue was upgraded in November from the administrative to the ministerial level, which shows “how much we want to deepen our dialogue and political relations”.

Health cooperation
Legendre said both countries were seeking more cooperation within the health sector in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as well as partnership in a variety of fields including defense, where France is very eager on protecting its interests, in addition to the interests and security of its allies such as Kuwait.

The ambassador said France and Kuwait have a roadmap for health cooperation and acknowledged there is room for improvement. “We signed an agreement for training more health professionals; we have an agreement we signed in 2012 to train more doctors, but we want to go further and include leading medical educational institutions to develop their training capacity in Kuwait, especially in the field of oncology and management of hospitals,” Legendre said. “We share the same DNA when it comes to multilateral actions on health. We both agree that all must have access to the COVID vaccine.”

On defense and security, Legendre said this area is critical to Paris’ relationship with Kuwait. “That is why French Defense Minister Florence Parly will visit Kuwait next week to reiterate our commitment to Kuwait’s defense and security and regional stability. This means we are ready to cooperate and boost Kuwait’s capabilities in terms of defense and security by training cadets. Many of them are trained at the best military academy in France. We want to enhance training programs not just for top military officers, but also special forces, specifically for fighter jet pilots and coastguard and border patrols,” she said.

“We are also supporting the capabilities of Kuwait in terms of military equipment. At the end of 2020, we delivered two military helicopters to the Kuwait Air Force and National Guard and 28 more are coming. This is the time for critical partnership, even during the pandemic. In 2020, we also delivered 300 armored vehicles to the defense ministry and National Guard. Our defense forces conduct military exercises with the Kuwaiti armed forces every two years,” Legendre mentioned.

Education and culture
On education and cultural cooperation, Legendre said this area is also very important to France, with cooperation in this field starting in 1966. “I am glad to say that Kuwait is the very first country in the region that signed education and cultural cooperation with France. We want to strengthen our cooperation in education. We have many agreements with educational institutions here. We want to create more programs to benefit both countries’ peoples. We partnered with Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research; we want to encourage more Kuwaiti students to study in educational institutions in France, along with students who want to learn French,” she said.

In the business and economic sectors, Legendre said Kuwait and France enjoy a mutually beneficial economic relationship. “In 2019, bilateral trade between the two nations amounted to €800 million, with French exports totaling €526 million. Military aircraft and commercial aircraft delivered to Kuwait boosted the French side. Trade remains high even in this time of pandemic and because of the strong partnership between Airbus and Kuwait Airways. We have a strong presence in cosmetics, textiles, machinery, pharmaceutical and agricultural products. We are glad Kuwait loves French brands,” she said.