French firms 'to pump money into Bahrain'
Manama, February 11, 2009
French companies are queuing up to invest in infrastructure projects in Bahrain, it was revealed.
France president Nicolas Sarkozy told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, that several firms were ready to pump money into water treatment, transport and electricity distribution networks as part of growing co-operation between both countries.
He also said French exports to Bahrain increased by 20 per cent last year, despite the impact of the global credit crunch.
Sarkozy was speaking to the GDN ahead of his visit to Manama today to sign bilateral agreements involving military co-operation, medical training and nuclear energy.
He is due to arrive from Oman this morning, making him the first French president to visit Bahrain in 19 years.
'Our exports, for example, increased by almost 20pc,' said President Sarkozy during an exclusive interview.
'Last year was also marked by the signing of some major contracts such as the sale of 41 Airbuses to Gulf Air and Bahrain Air.'
Sarkozy said several French companies also made important long-term investments in Bahrain's public services. 'I am thinking of course of GDF Suez, but also CNIM, which is to build a waste incineration plant that it is to manage for 25 years,' he said.
'The total investment represents several hundred million euros and transfer of cutting-edge technologies.'
'France wants to be a partner with Bahrain in its economic and energy diversification policy, in the long-term, for nuclear power.'
Meanwhile, Sarkozy said he had made a considerable personal commitment to seeking a solution to the crisis in Gaza and called for all sides to continue their pursuit of a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
'Everyone is aware that there is no military solution to this conflict,' he said.
'There is therefore no alternative to restarting negotiations with a view to creating a viable Palestinian state that is independent, modern and democratic alongside Israel.'
'Some may think that the prospect of re-launching the peace process has never been so remote. That is not my opinion. On the contrary, I believe that moments of extreme tension such as what we have just experienced can act as triggers.'
Sarkozy said the ceasefire obtained three weeks ago should only be the start of negotiations geared towards securing a lasting peace.
'We are aware that the truce is fragile and our current priority is to consolidate it,' he said.
'This implies the sustainable and earliest re-opening of the crossing points.
'Gaza cannot continue to be the world's largest open-air prison, but to do this, we have to end illegal arms trafficking.
'The fight against contraband arms to Gaza is a crucial element of consolidation of the peace and I welcome Egypt's action in this area.'
Sarkozy also believes Bahrain's economy is strong enough to weather the global credit crunch.
'Bahrain's cautious economic policy means the country is now well armed to face the economic crisis, due in particular to the excellent reputation of its banking system,' he said.
'Its role as the reference financial centre in the Middle East should come out stronger.
'In addition, as a pioneer in the development of Islamic financial products, the kingdom no doubt has all the trump cards in its hand to assert itself as a global Islamic financial centre, in the same way as Kuala Lumpur in its sphere of influence.'
He credited Bahrain's openness and reforms, pointing to the fact it became the first country in the world to submit a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review.
'In a region where there is considerable tension, the kingdo