PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a trip to the United Arab Emirates to mourn the death of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and display his support for the ruling family, with whom France holds lucrative business and military ties.
Macron will travel to the UAE on Sunday, his administration said in a statement, to pay tribute to Khalifa, who died on Friday, and “express his support to his brother Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and the rest of the family, and the entire Emirian people”,
Khalifa, UAE president since 2004, was a pro-Western moderniser who had aligned the Gulf Arab state more closely with the West, but had rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2014. He was buried and funeral prayers were held on Friday.
Major oil producer UAE is seen by France as a strategic partner in the region, and business ties, which include the delivery of military equipment and energy infrastructure, have been reinforced under Macron’s first presidential term.
During a high-profile visit to Dubai in November, Macron displayed a good relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed, the country’s de facto leader, and business delegations from both states signed a series of major deals.
The UAE ordered 80 of Dassault Aviation’s Rafale fighter jets and 12 military helicopters through an arms contract worth 17 billion euros ($19.20 billion), which the French say will secure thousands of local jobs.
French energy giants TotalEnergies and Engie also won billion-euro deals.
Paris has a permanent military base in the Emirati capital.
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Jan Harvey)