French PM calls for dialogue at Gulf's Sorbonne

13th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Sunday inaugurated a campus at the Abu Dhabi branch of the famed Sorbonne with a call for dialogue and an appeal against the idea of a clash of civilisations.

The Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi is a "place of dialogue and sharing," Fillon said.

"There are few places that such a dialogue could take root as well as here ... It is a place where we learn how one civilisation can feed the development of another," Fillon said.

There does not exist "a better place for research than the Middle East, the birthplace of civilisations, for historians, the birthplace of the first (legal) code for lawyers, of algebra, for mathematicians," he said.

In another speech at the inauguration, Mugheer al-Khaili, head of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, played up the university's motto of "A bridge between civilisations."

Fillon spoke up against the theory of a "clash of civilisations."

"The thesis of a clash of civilisations, which does not belong to the intellectual heritage of France, is dangerous and worthless. It cannot be the basis of any future vision of the international order," the premier said.

The theory "has not had any effect except nihilism and destruction. It was based only on fear and ignorance," said Fillon, making the first visit by a French prime minister to the United Arab Emirates since its founding in 1971.

Opened in 2006, Sorbonne university's branch in the UAE capital now has over 600 students of more than 60 different nationalities. Its new campus on Al-Reem island will be able to accommodate 2,000 students.

Construction was financed entirely by the oil-rich Gulf state.

After the inauguration, Fillon left for Dubai to meet the city-state's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum. He was also scheduled to visit a French military base in Abu Dhabi.

© 2011 AFP

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