French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said in remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that strengthening France’s relations with both Saudi Arabia and the UAE can be considered as a way to respond to chronic and escalating instability in the Middle East.
The minister pointed to Iran adopting systemic escalation in a crisis-ridden Middle East. She said that Tehran does so by pressing onwards with destabilizing nuclear, ballistic, and drone programs and using proxies abroad.
In addition to suppressing Iranians at home, the regime in Iran continues to threaten other countries in the region. It is also participating in Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Colonna confirmed that France is “determined to stand” in the face of these threats, and that it will remain “faithful to its obligations towards the security of its partners” in the Gulf region.
In her interview, the minister affirmed that her country is “seeking to strengthen cooperation with Saudi Arabia in order to find solutions to regional crises.”
Colonna said that the region can “rely on Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the poles of stability in the region.”
She stressed that “Paris wants to strengthen relations with Riyadh in all fields, and that it supports Saudi Arabia’s national transformation plan, dubbed “Kingdom Vision 2030.”
Colonna, who is visiting the Gulf region for the first time, said that she is carrying a “simple message,” that countries of this part of the world can count on France in the face of chronic and growing instability that has become a reality in the region.
“Strengthening relations with our partners in the Gulf region, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is a way to confront this reality,” said Colonna.
The French minister recalled the untold devastation brought about by Russia’s war on Ukraine and said that the world’s nations must adhere to “common principles of the UN Charter in this regard.”
“These principles stipulate that no country has the right to invade a neighboring country, and this principle applies in Europe, the Middle East and throughout the world,” she stated.
“In fact, the Middle East is suffering from crises as well, and the region is primarily facing the escalation that Iran is deliberately leading by carrying out destabilizing activities,” added Colonna.
The top diplomat said that several flashpoints exacerbate the risks of a more difficult situation arising in the Middle East.
She pointed to escalation of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the continuing political vacuum in Lebanon, instability in Yemen and the volatility of the situation there without a cease-fire agreement.
Additionally, there is the failure in Syria.
“France fulfills its commitment to support and secure its partners in the Gulf region and is ready to strengthen cooperation with Saudi Arabia in order to resolve regional crises and combat the hotbeds of instability in the region,” reiterated Colonna.
Colonna urged mobilizing all efforts to promote dialogue.
“We must seize all opportunities in order to limit the areas of conflict,” she explained.
Highlighting that cooperation among the countries of the region has great potential, Colonna said: “We must urge cooperation in this troubled region in order to achieve the interests of all in general, and for the sake of the peoples of the region in particular.”
The minister emphasized that Saudi Arabia and the UAE represent stability in the region.
She affirmed that Paris has already “embarked on a solid partnership with Saudi Arabia.”
“We want to strengthen all aspects of this partnership in the fields of economy, energy and culture,” added Colonna.
She asserted that France supports Kingdom Vision 2030, which was put forward by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“We seek enhancing support for the Kingdom in the economic and social transformation projects that it undertakes and the transition it leads in the field of energy,” said Colonna.
Moreover, the minister revealed that she will soon be meeting with the newly appointed Gulf Cooperation Council secretary-general.
“The GCC proves the region’s ability to overcome differences in the pursuit of unity and contributing to peace. This is of paramount importance in the period of turmoil the region is facing,” said Colonna.
When asked about Iran’s behavior in the region, Colonna said: “We and our partners persevere in seeking a diplomatic solution to the current situation. We call on Iran to implement all its international obligations.”
“We remain determined to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” she asserted.
“Unfortunately, however, our sources of concern are not limited to the nuclear issue. Iran threatens its regional environment and seeks to destabilize it,” added Colonna.
The minister explained that Iran operates directly in its neighboring countries through proxies that pursue its interests.
“Such destabilizing activities are on the rise,” said Colonna.
Affirming that Paris is determined to confront Iran about its illicit activities, Colonna said: “We are communicating closely with our international and regional partners in order to address the situation by focusing on the transfer of remote drones and missiles carried out by Iran in violation of Resolution 2231 of the UN Security Council.”