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Qatar Ambassador Says French Investments Just 'Business'

Qatar has set up a fund to support enterprises in France’s underdeveloped areas, a move some speculate aims to interfere in French politics or propagate Qatar’s orthodox brand of Islam. Al-Monitor's Sophie Claudet met with Qatar's ambassador to discuss France, the rise of Islamism in Arab Spring countries, Syria and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
France's President Francois Hollande (L) welcomes Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris August 22, 2012.  REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen  (FRANCE - Tags: POLITICS)

PARIS — Qatar’s investments worldwide are estimated at around $60 billion, but France seems to hold a particular place in Qatar’s heart — and investment portfolio. Qatari investment funds and subsidiaries have participations in several French companies including Vinci, Veolia, the mammoth media conglomerate Lagardère and Paris’ flagship soccer team: the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). The tiny emirate has bought several hotels and pieces of real estate on the French Riviera and in Paris as well as invested in luxury casinos.

More recently, Qatar set up a 300-million-euro fund in partnership with the French state to support small and medium enterprises in the country’s underdeveloped areas, including France’s infamous suburbs or “banlieues," home to a large population of second and third-generation French Muslim citizens of Arab descent. The fund raised eyebrows in France among politicians and civil-society activists alike, who slammed the move as an attempt to interfere in French politics and possibly propagate Qatar’s orthodox brand of Islam. Al-Monitor met with the Qatari ambassador in Paris, Mohamed Al Kuwari, to find out more about his country’s apparent love story with France. The ambassador, who previously served in Washington and Tehran, also talked about the rise of Islamism in the wake of the Arab Spring, Syria’s rebellion and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

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