French president arrives in southern Alberta for official state visit

WATCH ABOVE: While French presidents have been to summits here before, this marks the first official state visit by a french president to western Canada. Mia Sosiak reports.

CALGARY – French President Francois Hollande touched down in Calgary and stepped out into a classic Canadian experience, a dump of snow. He arrived at Calgary’s International Airport Sunday morning and was greeted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper before the pair left for Banff.

The French president is in Canada on a three-day visit that will see him make stops in Banff, Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa.

The situation in the middle east among many topics discussed today by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and French President Francois Hollande.

The leaders sat down together at the Banff Springs Hotel.While french presidents have been to summits here before, this marks the first “official state visit” by a french president to western Canada.

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He is here to look for ways for Canada and France to better work together.

Prime Minister Harper greeted the French leader before the pair headed west to Banff for meetings.

Their motorcade rolling up 90 minutes later at the iconic Banff Springs Hotel.

“It’s an important visit because for Canada, France is one of the most important relationships in the world. It has been a key country for ours, it’s a country with which we’ve had important cultural and economic links literally for centuries,” Harper said.

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Hollande was officially welcomed with military honours.

Before a state luncheon, the governor general emphasized the cultural, political and economic ties between the two countries.

France is Canada’s eighth largest trading partner,with bilateral merchandise trade tallying more than $8.5 billion in 2013.

“I am certain we can strengthen our partnerships and create new avenues of prosperity,” Hollande said.

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Especially when it comes to our energy riches, the president sees opportunity for French businesses, including the production, transformation, transportation of hydrocarbons and minerals.

Hollande and Harper also discussed strategies around the ebola epidemic, global warming and world security threats involving Iraq and Syria.

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Hollande expressed solidarity with the families of two Canadian soldiers killed by homegrown radicals.

“France stands by you in these terrible times,” Hollande said.

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Next, came a meeting with Alberta premier Jim Prentice, who signed a letter of intent with the French president to improve market access to France for Alberta’s farmers.

In a statement letter, Prentice acknowledged what he called emerging opportunities for the two governments in energy, agriculture and advanced technology.

During the meetings, the historic mountain castle was fortified with an army of security in suits and uniforms. It’s was an eyeful for guests and employees.

Hollande will now head east to address Parliament in Ottawa and is also scheduled to visit Montreal and Quebec City.

The French leader is travelling with several ministers, as well as a business and academic delegation from France.

The trip is intended to strengthen trade and economic ties, and foster greater cooperation when it comes to international security.