Macron visits the Gulf to seek arms deals and strengthen the role of the region

Nice, France (AP)-French President Emmanuel Macron is visiting the energy-rich Persian Gulf on Friday, hoping to reach an important weapons contract after the failed Australian submarine deal this fall and strengthen France’s The role of the region.

The two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia comes one month before France assumes the rotating presidency of the European Union — and before France’s 2022 presidential election, Macron is expected to seek re-election.

Returning from the Gulf with a contract to sell French fighter jets to the UAE, Paris and Abu Dhabi have discussed an agreement for nearly a decade to promote France’s defense industry after Australia’s $66 billion contract for the purchase of 12 French submarines broke.

Since Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, Macron’s red carpet treatment of Gulf political heavyweights will make France a European powerhouse in the Gulf and the Middle East.

“Macron stands out among EU leaders, and he is willing to be the focus, advancing foreign policy and pushing things forward,” said Sylvia Colombo, an EU-Gulf Relations expert at the Rome Institute of International Affairs.

However, Colombo said Macron is mainly pursuing French commercial interests. “He has a very clear idea. He has to go where the business world wants to go, where France can get economic benefits.”

Macron is keen to build personal relationships with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, and other leaders, which makes him Become a welcome guest. The two Gulf leaders both value a certain degree of pragmatism when discussing democracy and human rights — their countries have been severely criticized by human rights organizations and European lawmakers on these issues — while seeking business opportunities.

France has deep ties with the United Arab Emirates, which is a federation of seven emirates on the Arabian Peninsula, especially since the September 11, 2001 attack. The UAE opened a French naval base at Zayed Port in Abu Dhabi in 2009. French fighter planes and personnel are also stationed at Al-Dhafra Air Force Base, a major facility outside of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, and also home to thousands of US troops.

Months after Macron was elected in 2017, he traveled to the UAE to inaugurate Louvre Abu Dhabi, built under a $1.2 billion agreement to share the name and art of the world-famous museum in Paris.

In September, Macron received the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi at the historic Fontainebleau Castle outside Paris, which was restored in 2019 with a donation of 10 million euros (US$11.3 million) from the UAE.

The UAE and France have also become more and more aligned due to their mutual distrust of Islamic parties in the Middle East, and have supported the same party during the civil strife in Libya.

A senior official of the French Presidential Palace told reporters on condition of anonymity before the visit that Macron will “continue to promote and support efforts to contribute to the stability of the region, from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.”

The official said that tensions in the Gulf will be discussed, especially after US President Donald Trump withdraws from the agreement and restarts negotiations with world powers on the Iranian nuclear agreement. The Gulf countries have long been concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and influence in the region, especially in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

“This is a hot topic,” the French official said, adding that Macron discussed these issues in a phone call with the Iranian president on Monday. The official said that he will discuss this call and issue with Gulf leaders-including the nuclear agreement negotiations in Vienna, where they “are directly concerned about this issue like all of us, but also because they are (Iranian) neighbors.” country”.

Analysts say that France, Germany, and the United Kingdom all believe that the 2015 nuclear agreement-with minor adjustments-is the way forward with Iran. The UAE and Saudi Arabia strongly oppose the agreement negotiated between the West and Iran.

“Although the Gulf countries don’t like the West’s deal with Iran, the prospect of its violent disintegration is not good for them, and it can be said to bring more serious risks,” said Jane Jinningmont, a Gulf expert at the European Leadership Network in London. :tank.

“They have always believed that the West should get more from Iran before reaching an agreement,” Jinningmont said. “But if the West finds nothing, the Gulf countries will begin to understand that their security will not improve as a result.”

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