Muscat: Oman and France are building ties on various economic, military and social fronts, and working on special projects, including tourism and cultural exchanges, and development of an Omani-French museum, said Roland Dubertrand, French ambassador to Oman, on the occasion of his country’s National Day (Bastille Day).
“On this day, we assess the relationship between France and Oman and I have to say that we appreciate the role of Oman in the region as it always finds peaceful solutions for conflicts and tensions in the region. France being a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and for all European nations, this peaceful, constructive, and proactive role of Oman in the region is important,” the ambassador said in an interview with the Times of Oman.
A major cultural project that the two countries are currently working on is the renovation of the Omani French museum. “We are working out the renovation plans for the last two years, ever since the two governments entered into an agreement in 2014,” Ambassador Dubertrand explained.
The Omani French Museum was established in 1992 to preserve historical relations between the two nations, and is located in the former residence of the French Consul in Old Muscat.
The French government is also working to attract more Omani students to France. “We have scholarships from the embassy and we hope that the Omani government will also send students with Omani scholarships.”
“We also want to develop the French language in the country together with the ‘Centre Franco-Omanais (CFO),’ which offers French language courses here.”
As part of this, the government of Oman, in cooperation with the French embassy has launched an experimental programme to offer French as an optional language after Arabic and English in four Omani state schools. “We hope that this will be extended to other public schools in the country and the embassy is doing its best to support this.”
Besides this, France has also eased the process of granting visas to Omanis. “We issue Schengen visas to Omanis within 48 hours. We are witnessing a rise in the number of Omanis visiting France. In 2015, 10,500 visas were issued to people in Oman; likewise 50,000 tourists from France visit Oman on average each year,” he said.
Stressing that the two governments aim to develop human exchange on multiple fronts including tourism, the ambassador said, “We want to strengthen links between the two countries through political dialogue, military cooperation and economic exchanges, culture and tourism visits.”
The two countries are also making great strides in the economic field, “Our (bilateral) trade stood at 500 million Euros in 2015, and now France has a stock of 1.2 billion Euros in Oman which is quite an important share.”
Promoting entrepreneurship, the Omani France Friendship Association (OFFA) was formed in 2015, and is chaired by Hind Bahwan, working to develop economic links between the two countries.
Dubertrand hails from the south of France and has been in Oman for two years now, “I am very interested in the culture and history of the country, it has a very long history and one of the symbols of that are the forts, and I try to visit them with great interest.”
“French nationals living in Oman say the Omani people are very smart and hospitable and I share the feeling too. The country is beautiful and interesting with a long history and people are very welcoming.” Celebrated on July 14, Bastille Day marks the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789, and is now a major public holiday. A big reception is planned at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Muscat to celebrate the occasion.