Emmanuel Macron will tour the Gulf countries from Friday starting with Dubai. The same day, he will then join Qatar in the evening and finish Saturday in Jeddah, the major port city of Saudi Arabia. There he will meet the three strongmen of the Arab monarchies of the Gulf: the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed ben Zayed Al-Nahyane (MBZ), the Emir of Qatar Tamim ben Hamad al-Thani, then the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salman. (MBS).
Many of the topics for discussion relate in particular to the major strategic issues in the region: the fight against terrorism, Islamist radicalism, Iranian nuclear power, the crisis in Lebanon, elections in Libya … On all these issues, Emmanuel Macron “continues his commitment which dates from the beginning “Of its five-year term in 2017, according to the Elysee, with the objective of” contributing to the stability “of the area, from” the Mediterranean to the Gulf “.
The thorny subject of Lebanon
For this, France presents itself “as a power of balance by strengthening the dialogue with and between the various actors” and “as an essential and reliable partner”, adds an adviser to the president. Despite the efforts made, Emmanuel Macron has not always obtained the desired results, especially in Lebanon and Libya, which does not prevent him from persevering.
Thus, he will evoke the diplomatic crisis between certain Gulf States and Lebanon, which pushed Saudi Arabia to stop its imports from Beirut, aggravating the economic crisis in this country.
Contracts for Rafales
Faced with regional crises, “countries like France have a role to play,” Anwar Gargash, advisor to the Emirati President, stressed on Tuesday. “Our positions are very close” on strategic issues, he added. Anwar Gargash indicated that “several contracts will be signed” Friday in Dubai, without revealing which ones. The most anticipated is the order for several dozen Rafale fighter jets from the Emirates, which would eventually replace the 60 Mirage 2000s acquired at the end of the 1990s.
The Emirates are the fifth most important customer of the French defense industry over the decade 2011-2020, with 4.7 billion euros in orders, according to the report to Parliament on French arms exports . By acquiring Rafale, they would follow in the footsteps of Qatar, which bought 36 aircraft, and Egypt (24 aircraft purchased in 2015 and 30 in 2021). Emmanuel Macron will be accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and business leaders, including Airbus, Thalès, Air Liquide and EDF.
Preparations for the 2022 World Cup on the menu
In Dubai, where he will arrive the day after the 50th anniversary of the creation of the United Arab Emirates, the French president will visit the World Expo which opened in October. Expected in Qatar at the end of the day, Emmanuel Macron should meet with Sheikh Tamim on preparations for the 2022 World Cup.
The next day, he will be one of the first Western leaders to meet Mohammed bin Salman since the diplomatic crisis sparked with many countries by the assassination in 2018 of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul, which severely tarnished the image of the Saudi leader.
“It is not a question of putting it back in the saddle”, affirms the French presidency. But “Arabia is a major player in the region” and “we cannot imagine having an ambitious policy (in the Middle East) without having a demanding dialogue” with this country, a member of the G20 and the region’s main economy, she argues. Emmanuel Macron will leave Jeddah a few hours before the first Formula 1 Grand Prix organized by Saudi Arabia, which seeks to use sport as a lever to improve its image internationally.