Ludovic Pouille, new French Ambassador, during an interview with Gulf News at French Embassy in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: France and the UAE are fighting a common battle against terrorism and extremism, a top diplomat told Gulf News on Thursday.

“In the area of security and defence, France and the UAE are fighting a common battle against terrorism and extremism, both on the ground and in the minds,” said Ludovic Pouille, the new French Ambassador to the UAE.

Pouille, who took charge as the ambassador early this month, said: “It’s a great pride for me to serve France in the UAE. I approach this new mission with enthusiasm, in a context where the partnership between our countries, established since the founding of the UAE, is exceptional and based on trust and loyalty.”

The envoy shared his thoughts about bilateral relations on the eve of French National Day that falls on Friday (July 14). He appreciated the role of 27,000 French citizens — the biggest French community in the Middle East — in all areas of life.

About the joint initiatives of France and the UAE, he said: “I am thinking in particular of the joint Franco-UAE initiative that led to the organisation last December in Abu Dhabi of the international Conference on Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage, which enabled the creation of a $75-million (Dh275.25-million) fund and the adoption of a resolution presented by France to the Security Council of the United Nations. We are proud to have initiated this international mobilisation for the protection of cultural heritage with our Emirati partners,” the envoy said.

Talking about bilateral cultural relations, Pouille said he had a chance to visit Louvre Abu Dhabi during his first week in the capital. “How can you not be amazed by this architectural prowess? In welcoming soon the first universal museum since the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York, the UAE is sending a fantastic message of openness, tolerance and dialogue among civilisations to the world.”

He said he was particularly pleased that France was invited to put its architectural and museum expertise at the service of this beautiful project.

About the French National Day this year, the ambassador said the French Embassy’s celebrations in Abu Dhabi would show its support for the bid of Paris for the Olympic Games in 2024.

This occasion will precede the date when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will select the host city for the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2024 on September 13, in Lima (Peru).

The French capital is one of the candidates to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the entire French diplomatic network abroad — including of course the French Embassy in the UAE — is supporting the bid, relying on values of sharing (with the slogan “Made For sharing”), humanism, inclusion, togetherness and respect for the environment, the envoy explained.

France, which remains the world’s top touristic destination (with more than 80 million foreign tourists in 2016), has recently demonstrated its ability to host major sporting events, while ensuring that they remain focused on the fans in a safe and festive atmosphere, despite the difficult international circumstances, he said.

Recent major events held in France, both sporting and non-sporting, have displayed France’s knowledge and expertise in this area, such as the COP21, Uefa Euro 2016 and the World Men’s Handball Championship. At Euro 2016, over 1.2 million people in Paris and over four million throughout France enjoyed the fan zones in complete safety, Pouille said.

He said Paris and France are the world’s leading tourist destinations with their unique heritage and expertise in hospitality. “Should Paris win this bid, the entire city would become a genuine Olympic Park, with many of the events in iconic locations like the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, the Champs-Élysées and the Château de Versailles, to mark the centenary of the 1924 Paris Olympics,” the envoy explained.