General View of Old City. (Photo:
UNESCO urged to pull out all the stops for the protection of third holiest mosque, Al-Aqsa (Photo: MEMO)

Paris, 10 Dzulqa’dah 1435/5 September 2014 (MINA) – Saudi Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, urged UNESCO on Thursday to take effective steps for protecting Masjid Al-Aqsa — the third holiest mosque in the world — from Israeli designs.

Prince Salman made this call during a visit to UNESCO headquarters in Paris before the conclusion of his four-day official visit to France. The crown prince later returned to Jeddah, Arab News quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

“UNESCO should activate all its international resolutions to protect Al-Aqsa and all other valuable cultural antiquities in Palestine from Israeli aggression,” the crown prince said while praising the organization for giving full membership to Palestine.

A final communiqué that was issued at the end of the royal visit emphasized the two countries’ desire to strengthen their defense cooperation.

“France has expressed its willingness to support Saudi Navy with speedboats in order to enhance its maritime capabilities,” the communiqué said, adding that it would back Royal Saudi Air Force with transport and refueling aircraft.

“The two countries also agreed to continue their fruitful cooperation in the field of air defense and development of new capabilities in the field of satellites,” the communiqué stated.

During his visit, Prince Salman held talks with President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls; Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius and Minister Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian on major regional and international issues and strengthening bilateral cooperation.

In a cable sent to Hollande, Prince Salman said the visit would play a key role in strengthening Saudi-French relations in all fields. “Our talks have reflected the depth of our partnership relations,” he added.

The fight against terrorism

Saudi Arabia and France expressed their grave concern over the ongoing events in the region, including the growing danger of the phenomenon of terrorism and extremism, hailing the call made recently by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to world leaders to accelerate the fight against terrorism and the importance of supporting the International Counterterrorism Center at the United Nations.

The two countries agreed to strengthen cooperation to combat terrorism, “which is a global phenomenon threatening all societies and is not linked to any race or belief.” They denounced the Israeli aggression on Gaza.

Saudi Arabia and France called for a just, comprehensive and lasting Middle East peace settlement on the basis the Arab Peace Initiative and UN resolutions.

The two sides expressed deep concern over the worsening situation in Syria, stressing that the Bashar Assad regime that has lost its legitimacy bears the responsibility for the situation. They called for an urgent peaceful and political settlement to end the Syrian crisis through full implementation of Geneva-1 Resolutions, including formation of a transitional governing body with all the executive powers.

The two sides called for extending humanitarian and relief assistance for the Syrian refugees and encouraging the international community to provide more support for the Syrians.

They expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in Yemen in the light of the acts carried out by the Houthis and their supporters to undermine the political transition process and security situation in the country. The two sides reaffirmed their support for Lebanon’s unity, security and stability through its official institutions.

Saudi-French strategic partnership

The two sides recalled the historical visit by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to France in 2007, and the visit of Hollande to the Kingdom last year, which resulted in the consolidation of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

“The two sides expressed satisfaction of the strong relations between Saudi Arabia and France and their progress in political, security, economic, financial, commercial, industrial, educational and cultural fields,” the communiqué said.

They stressed the importance of further strengthening strategic partnership between the two countries and implementation of this partnership in economic cooperation, particularly in finance, economy, trade and joint investments.

“In this regard, there will be a meeting between the Saudi minister of finance and the French foreign minister to complete necessary measures,” the communiqué said.

The two sides expressed their happiness over the success of Haj Exhibition held at the Arab World Institute in Paris, which was inaugurated by Hollande on June 22. They also agreed to enhance cooperation in the fields of culture and art, including organization of cultural events in both countries.

Referring to Iraq, the two sides welcomed the consensus of the Iraqis and appointment of the new prime minister, president and speaker, stressing the need to form a government of national unity that represents all Iraqi people. The two sides affirmed importance of preserving Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Riyadh and Paris called upon Iran to cooperate entirely with the group of 5 +1 on the Iranian nuclear file. This cooperation could resolve the Iranian file within framework of long-term agreement ensuring peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, leading to a significant contribution of the international efforts to make the Middle East free zone of weapons of mass destruction.

Prince Salman expressed his thanks and appreciation to President Hollande, Prime Minister Valls and the French government and people for the warm reception and hospitality they accorded to him and the accompanying delegation.
Meanwhile, Prince Salman received at his residence in Paris the President of French Council for Islamic Religion and head of Paris Grand Mosque Dalil Abu Bakr and a number of the council’s members.

The crown prince reiterated Saudi Arabia’s support for Islamic associations in various countries. He also noted the Kingdom’s efforts in the service of pilgrims who come for Haj and Umrah.

Prince Salman also met with Saudi scholarship students pursuing their higher studies in French universities and urged them to excel in education. (T/R05/P3)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)