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.

Fillon, on the first visit to the United Arab Emirates by a French premier since the UAE was founded in 1971, also held talks in Dubai and toured a French military base in Abu Dhabi.

The Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi is a "place of dialogue and sharing," the prime minister 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.

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.

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.

Fillon, who met Saudi officials in Riyadh on Saturday, moved on to Dubai for talks on France's proposed sale of its Rafale fighter planes, which Paris has been working to export but without success to date.

And Fillon visited France's military base opened in 2009 in Abu Dhabi, located within 250 kilometres (155 miles) of Iran's coastline, that he said was a sign that "our military adapts to strategic challenges."

More than 600 French soldiers are to be stationed at the base by end 2011.

© 2011 AFP

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