Time Frame: Diplomatic dialogue

Salut! The caption for this photograph, first published in Al Ittihad newspaper, reads: ‘press conference that was held by Mr Jean de Lipowski, minister of state and special envoy of the French president, at the French ambassador’s residence in the UAE.’

As almost always, there is a bit of back story that is a bit more interesting.

De Lipowski, seen on the left, talking animatedly to the young reporter, was the French foreign minister under President Georges Pompidou and had diplomatic experience in both the Far and Middle East.

At the time this photograph was taken, November 28, 1974, Pompidou, who died earlier that year, had been replaced by Valery Giscard d’Estang and de Lipowski would technically have been out of office. In fact, his diplomatic expertise would have made him ideal to send to Abu Dhabi at a time when France was looking to develop its relationship in the Arabian Gulf, a region from which it had been largely excluded until Britain pulled out in 1971.

The so-called ‘oil shock’ when prices quadrupled after the OPEC embargo that followed the 1973 Arab-Israel war was one factor, but also a sense that this was a part of the world with growing economic and political influence.

One fruit of this developing relationship followed a state visit by Sheikh Zayed to Paris in the summer of 1974. The Alliance Francaise Abu Dhabi is a cultural organisation which continues to flourish as it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

We also know that November 28 was a big day for Abu Dhabi’s Francophiles. A gala dinner was held that evening at the then newly opened Hilton Hotel featuring a fashion show by the French fashion house Cacharel.

No doubt M.de Lopowski was one of the guests of honour at the gala. Perhaps his attractive interviewer even received an invitation.

* James Langton

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