French President visits Saudi Arabia

29-30 December 2013 – Visit of the President of the French Republic François Hollande in Saudi Arabia

A meeting which took place in Riyadh, on 29 December 2013, between King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saoud, and the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, which emphasized the importance of reinforcing bilateral French-Saudi relations to enhance communication and initiate a solid economic cooperation partnership between France and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The economic relations which bind the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and France are solid, effective and multifaceted, founded on mutual trust. Given the solidity of these relations, they must now result in promising and productive projects allowing strengthening this reciprocal compliance to guarantee the sustainable backing of their economy and their industry.

In this respect, King Abdullah and the French President raised the subject of developing a partnership between the Kingdom and France in all aspects of economic participation, notably undertakings in the fields of finance and possible investments, allowing them to maintain their mutual interests.

In this context, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and France agreed on the fact that these investments would focus on three major sectors: infrastructure projects, particularly in the field of railway transport, from credit to export, as well as other innovative industrial projects.

Speech by Mr. François Hollande:

I apologize, but I will speak in French. So…

I’m going to start by underlining the decisive role that Mr. Ben Laden had in these relations between France and Saudi Arabia as throughout his whole professional life, which is really just beginning, he has had the firm intention of serving the interests of our two countries.

It’s true that he inherited both the French language and culture from this father. And you decided to do your studies in Paris at the Sorbonne, the most famous of French universities and you began your professional life as a lawyer in France. Then you decided to return here – to your home and your country – and you opened your law firm in Riyadh. Today, you undeniably belong to the highly-competent Saudi elite. French companies trust you and you defend their interests here, with your particularly precious and invaluable advice. You preside over the CAFS and you give a lot of your time … although it can be said that time, for a lawyer, is the precious of commodities! I didn’t say the most expensive commodity! But you’re also our lawyer as you defend, when necessary, the interests of the Embassy in Riyadh. You also encouraged the implementation of an Alliance Française in Saudi Arabia. And, thanks to you, 2500 Saudis study our language today. This is really what I wanted to emphasize to justify this high distinction which I’m going to award you. You help the French culture, the French language and the French economy …. and therefore Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Mohamed Bin Laden, in the name of the French Republic, we appoint you as Knight of the Legion of Honor”

François Hollande
President of the French Republic

Speech by Dr. Mohamed ben Laden:

« Mr. President of the French Republic, Honorable Ministers, Ambassadors, dear friends.

Mr. President, the words you’ve just spoken regarding myself touch me enormously and I thank you warmly and wholeheartedly. I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude today for all my friends who I’ll not cite in their entirety as the list is very long, but who made it possible for this day to finally happen. Certain among you – and I’m sure you’ll know who I’m referring to – are here with us today and I also thank those who were not able to attend but I know they are very happy for me at this moment.

It’s with a great emotion that I measure the honor bestowed upon me today, given the incredibly strong and might-I say, indestructible ties which bind me to France. Today this a double honor for me. Not only am I, thanks to you, going to enter into this prestigious order of the Legion of Honor but in addition, I’m graced with your presence here in Riyadh.

I’m really very proud and your presence in Saudi Arabia proves, in the eyes of my Saudi compatriots, the genuine interest which you have for the Kingdom. As President of the CAFS, I’ve always been very touched by your attention, Mr. the President, which you’ve always given to Saudi Arabia, its politicians, its business men, its projects and the reception which you organized at the Elysée Palace in April has been engraved in my memory.

And if I may do so, I’d like to make a confession …. More and more we hear in Saudi Arabia that France is a faithful partner and a reliable friend. Of course I was already aware of this but I’m not very biased considering my immense love for France. To finish-up and as we are at the dawn of new year, to present you, Mr. the President of the French Republic, all my wishes for success in your job which is so demanding. I make the wish that 2014 be a year full of success with many results in the valorous efforts which you make, and be assured, Mr. the President, of my deep gratitude for the prestigious form of recognition bestowed on me by France today.

Mohamed Ben Laden

Speech by François Hollande:

Honorable Ministers,

After listening to the speech of Mohamed Ben Laden, we have absolutely no doubt about having bestowed him with his honor. The high standard of his language like the depth of his culture, along with his love towards France, all justify this prestigious distinction. His father, Abdul Aziz Almunajem, who was therefore Mr. Abdullah Al-Munajem, developed his activity first working with fruits and vegetables and then he had an idea as he didn’t only work in the agri-food business but also in the restaurant industry, service industry, distribution and even in building. Somewhere along the line there was a meeting with France. You trusted in French farmers, notably chicken-farmers and you invested in the company Doux and you distribute their products here in Saudi Arabia. We are now linked to each other as you chose to invest in the company’s capital. For all these reasons of being faithful, loyal and honest, France wanted to pay you their respects, and make the Al-Munajem Group an example to follow. It’s an example of mutual effort, partnership and shared interest. And in this economy it’s not just a question of merchandise, products and capital as we’re also dealing with men and if there are no company managers or great leaders, then there can’t be a thriving economy. And this is why Mr. Abdul Aziz Almunajem, we see in you a great company manager, a knowledgeable investor and a friend of France. And even if we’re far from Brittany here in Saudi Arabia, even if there are some people from Brittany among us here today … there are always Bretons everywhere! Well today Brittany turns toward Saudi Arabia and says thank-you. And France turns towards Mr. Abdul Aziz Almunajem to bestow him with his prestigious distinction.

Mr. Abdul Aziz Almunajem, in the name of the French Republic, we appoint you as Knight of the Legion of Honor.”

François Hollande
President of the French Republic

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