The visit pushes Jean Castex to cancel his own at the Vatican, the two chief executives not being able to be outside France at the same time. On Sunday, Emmanuel Macron travels to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, to pay tribute to Sheikh Khalifa, president of the country who died on Friday at the age of 73.
If the presidential visit may seem above all formal, it nevertheless testifies to the very close ties between Paris and the oil monarchy, particularly since the arrival of Emmanuel Macron in power in France.
As soon as the death of Sheikh Khalifa was announced on Friday, France paid tribute to “a leader respected by all“, saluting”its deep attachment to stability and peace in the region and in the world. Its efforts to provide lasting responses to global challenges have been constant,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, praising its role in the “France-Emirati strategic partnership“.”Sheikh Khalifa was a fervent architect of the strengthening of the Franco-Emirati strategic partnership. France welcomes his continued commitment to building on the ties of trust and cooperation that unite France and the United Arab Emirates“, added the Quai d’Orsay.
The disappearance of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan mourns Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates.
My thoughts are with his brother the Crown Prince @MohamedBinZayedto all his family and to the people of the United Arab Emirates.
—Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 13, 2022
For the French president, France’s strategic ally in the Persian Gulf is no longer Saudi Arabia, as was the case under François Hollande’s five-year term, but the United Arab Emirates. Between the French President and Mohammad bin Zayedthe new president of the country elected on Saturday and thus succeeding his half-brother, Khalifa ben Zayed Al-Nahyan, who died the day before, the convergence of interests is very numerous.
The two heads of state are, for example, fierce opponents of political Islam. “MBZ”, the nickname of the new president, is also trying to forge a reputation for tolerance and openness: in 2017, he announced that the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi would be renamed Mariam Umm Issa Mosque (Mary, mother of Jesus ) in order to “consolidate the bonds of humanity between the followers of different religions“. Cooperation between the two countries is also strong in the cultural field, with in particular the creation of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
>> The United Arab Emirates signs a contract for the purchase of 80 Rafale fighter jets from France
On the strategic level, Emmanuel Macron and Mohammed ben Zayed also harbor the same fears about Iran and its nuclear program. Above all,
the relationship between the two countries is based on a close military-industrial alliance.
Since 2008, Paris has had a naval air base in Abu Dhabi. It is used by the Air Force for its operations in the Levant, and notably served during the airlift set up to evacuate foreigners and Afghans from Kabul after the Taliban took power last August. In addition to Leclerc battle tanks, last December in Dubai, a contract was signed between the two countries for the delivery of 80 Rafale fighter planes, for the record sum of 16 billion euros.
“Emmanuel Macron has chosen the United Arab Emirates, their authoritarian stability and their curious definition of secularism“, political science researcher Sébastien Boussois also declared on franceinfo on Saturday to explain Abu Dhabi’s diplomatic relations with Paris. The researcher adds that these links allow France “to exist on the spot in a space rather disputed by the Anglo-Saxons.”