PARIS, France – The President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, landed in Paris on Sunday, on his first state visit abroad and with agreements on energy and transport at the agenda.
He is due to meet his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Monday at the Elysée.
The UAE president’s visit comes after Joe Biden’s first tour of the Middle East as U.S. president, including a visit to Saudi Arabia at a time when Western powers are desperately waiting for Riyadh and the UAE to rise. oil production to control high energy prices resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
One of the key aspects of this trip will probably be the unveiling of “guarantees given by the United Arab Emirates on the quantities of hydrocarbon supplies to France”, a presidential adviser at the Elysée told AFP, making reference to diesel supply.
Dominated by hydrocarbons, exports from the United Arab Emirates to France reached 1.5 billion euros in 2019, largely refined petroleum products, but the Emirates does not currently supply diesel to the country.
France is seeking “to diversify its sources of supply in the context of the conflict in Ukraine”, added the source from the Elysée.
MoUs and contracts are also expected to be signed in the transport and waste treatment sectors during the three-day visit.
Relations between the two countries have developed considerably in recent years. The United Arab Emirates is home to the only foreign branch of the Louvre Museum and in December signed a record contract worth 14 billion euros for 80 Rafale fighter jets.
The United Arab Emirates is home to the largest community of French and French-speaking expatriates in the Gulf region.
Sheikh Mohamed, also known as MBZ, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates for years, took office in May following the death of his long-suffering half-brother, Sheikh Khalifa.
The visit to France “of course has a very symbolic dimension and illustrates… the good personal relations between Macron and MBZ,” said Anne Gadel, a member of the North Africa Middle East Observatory at the Jean Jaurès Foundation in Paris.
“This trip will be marked by energy issues in a context where European countries are worried about rising inflation driven by high energy prices,” she added.
European powers and the United States have sought to pressure the Gulf countries to increase their oil production.
By choosing France – rather than the United States – as his first foreign destination as president, Sheikh Mohamed of the United Arab Emirates could send “a signal … to the United States … which means: we are in no hurry to respond at all costs to American demands. “, Gadel said.
The United Arab Emirates has been a strategic partner of Washington for decades, but has asserted its independence in recent months, abstaining in February’s UN Security Council vote on a US-Albanian draft resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On Saturday, Biden invited his Emirati counterpart to visit the United States.
Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, an ally of the United Arab Emirates, have been rocky over the past two years, after Biden pledged during his successful 2020 election campaign to make the kingdom a gambled on its human rights record.
His trip did not prompt Riyadh to make new commitments on oil supplies.