The head of state begins a tour of the Gulf in Dubai on Friday.
President Emmanuel Macron is making a short visit to Dubai on Friday, December 3, the first step in a tour of the Gulf, to strengthen solid relations between France and the United Arab Emirates with the expected announcement of several contracts, including that of several dozens of Rafale. The strongman of the Emirates, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyane, known as MBZ, will welcome the French head of state at the site of the World Expo which is held in Dubai until the end March. After a mid-morning meeting, the two leaders will attend the signing of several contracts and economic agreements.
“I don’t want to reveal the Christmas present” ahead of the meeting, Anwar Gargash, advisor to the UAE president, told reporters this week. A discretion shared by the Élysée and the groups concerned. The most anticipated contract is that relating to an order for several dozen Rafale fighter jets by the Emirates, which would eventually replace the 60 Mirage 2000s acquired in the late 1990s. The Emirates are currently the fifth largest customer on the market. largest in the French defense industry over the decade 2011-2020, with 4.7 billion euros in order intake, according to the report to Parliament on French arms exports.
Meeting with Mohammed ben Salman
By acquiring Rafale aircraft, built by Dassault Aviation *, the Emirates would notably follow in Qatar, which bought 36 aircraft, and Egypt (24 aircraft purchased in 2015 and 30 in 2021). In Dubai, Emmanuel Macron is accompanied by a large delegation of ministers, including Jean-Yves Le Drian (Foreign Affairs), Bruno Le Maire (Economy) and Florence Parly (Armies), as well as business leaders, such as Airbus, Thales, Air Liquide or EDF. The powerful Emirati sovereign wealth fund Mubadala is expected to announce that it is significantly increasing its investment envelope, which would be raised to four billion euros, in French companies.
Arrived the day after the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Emirates, on December 2, 1971, the Head of State will visit the Emirati and French pavilions of Expo 2020, the first universal exhibition in history to be organized in the Middle -East. It opened in October a year late due to the Covid crisis. During this tour which takes him to Qatar at the end of the day and then to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Emmanuel Macron intends to discuss “The fight against terrorism, radical Islamism and their financing” because “Cooperating with these states, in particular against Daesh, is essential to guarantee the security of the French and Europeans”, according to the Élysée.
On major regional issues – Lebanon, Libya, Iranian nuclear power, Iraq – the Head of State wants France to play the role of a “Power of equilibrium” and a “Reliable and essential partner who dialogues with all relevant players”. He is expected to plead the cause of Lebanon as the economic crisis he is undergoing is aggravated by the sanctions taken by several Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, which has stopped its imports from Beirut.
In Jeddah on Friday morning, Emmanuel Macron will be one of the first Western leaders to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) since the 2018 assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul, which has severely tarnished the image of the king’s son. “As he does everywhere in his travels, he (President) discusses the issue of human rights with his interlocutors when necessary “, indicated the presidency in response to criticism from NGOs on the relevance of this meeting. She says the meeting is not intended to “Put back in the saddle” MBS, but that“We cannot imagine having an ambitious policy” in the Middle-East “Without having a demanding dialogue” with his country, a member of the G20 and the region’s main economy.
*The Dassault group owns the Figaro.