The close ties that the UAE and France have shared for decades was on full display on Wednesday when President Emmanuel Macron warmly greeted Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed on his arrival at Fontainebleau. It is an old friendship that over the years has been beneficial to the people of both countries. About 30,000 French people live in the UAE and more than 600 French companies operate in the Emirates. Sheikh Mohamed, also Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Mr Macron, met to discuss ways to strengthen this bilateral relationship.
The list of common interests between the French and Emirati people is a long one and the areas of strategic co-operation are many including related to economic and security matters. Already, there have been joint efforts to co-operate in advanced sciences, education, space, coding, research and development, and cultural and creative industries.
Most recently, the UAE facilitated the evacuation of French citizens from Kabul after the Afghan capital fell to the Taliban. Mr Macron has voiced his thanks and appreciation for this support.
Nearly three years ago, in 2018, at an official summit in Paris hosted by Mr Macron, Sheikh Mohamed spoke about both the UAE and France supporting tolerance and co-existence and working for stability, peace and development in the Middle East and the world.
Just last month Mr Macron was in Iraq for the Baghdad Conference for Co-operation and Partnership, where the UAE delegation was led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. The summit, with nine regional countries participating, aimed to increase regional co-operation and reduce tension. France was the only leader from a major Western power in attendance. It demonstrated to the world how under Mr Macron's presidency, France has stepped up its engagement with the Middle East.
In Lebanon, Mr Macron in the past year has repeatedly called for Cabinet formation and government reform. The keen interest to maintain stability in the wider region is apparent, and shared ground for the UAE and France. Much like the UAE, France also has an interest in furthering bilateral co-operation with Africa.
The progress of these strong ties is evident across sectors in the UAE, whether seen at Louvre Abu Dhabi or the steps made towards adopting new sources of energy. In fact, French residents in the UAE tend to work as entrepreneurs, or in the oil and gas or strategic sectors.
France also has a massive investment in hydrogen and plans to develop French hydrogen projects in the UAE are in the works.
There have been major achievements in the past decade, besides the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and the signing of the 2009 Joint Defence Agreement. In June, the two countries signed a 10-year bilateral plan, the UAE-France strategic partnership (2020-2030).
The UAE's Ambassador to France, Hend Al Otaiba, last week met Mr Macron's advisor for the Middle East and North Africa, Patrick Durel. Ms Al Otaiba said: "We discussed the strategic relationship between the UAE and France as well as various topics of common interest."
The strategic progress is set to further blossom as the two countries move beyond tackling the pandemic and welcome a degree of normality, both veering towards adoption of a green or a vaccine pass in the absolute prioritisation of public safety. As the leaders of the countries meet, it can be assumed that common strategic interests will be further developed and a friendship strengthened.