Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed meets French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris

The two leaders discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations

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The UAE and France are partners in the fight against extremism and terrorism, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said as he began an official visit to France on Wednesday.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, conducted a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron as part of an official summit in Paris.

The lunch between the  two leaders was dedicated to discussing issues of bilateral co-operation as well as signing further agreements in the fields of health and mutual investments.

Sheikh Mohamed said the two country's support values of tolerance, promote dialogue, interaction and coexistence among peoples, civilisations and cultures, reject intolerance and hatred, and work for peace, stability and development in the Middle East and the world, a statement to WAM, the UAE state news agency read.

The meeting was followed by a visit to the Louvre museum, where a photographic exhibition celebrating 100 years since the birth of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the UAE, was on display. Sheikh Mohamed met Emirati students studying in Paris at the exhibit.

A picture posted on Sheikh Mohamed's Twitter page shows him and Mr Macron embracing, with the French leader wearing a Year of Zayed pin.

The Crown Prince was hosted by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe for dinner at his official residence, where chief executives from a host of leading French companies were in attendance, among them presidents of Total and Thalès and Airbus.

French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian hosted his counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed at a lunch at the Quai d’Orsay ahead of a signing ceremony for two new agreements.

One agreement for enhanced cooperation in medicine, and a second agreement between the Banque Publique d’Investissement (BPI), the French state investment bank, and Mubadala for a €300 million project, with scope for an additional €700 million to invest in start-up firms promoting innovation in the health sector.

A French diplomatic source told The National that the visit, which follows Mr Macron's landmark trip to open Louvre Abu Dhabi last year was a demonstration of good bilateral relations and co-operation between France and UAE across a whole range of sectors, including educational links, renewable energy, space sector and health.

“It is a diverse partnership in a lot of sectors which enables both countries to closely work together on the international scene, for example, the reinforcement of the task force headed by Mauritanian chief of staff of G5 in Sahel to which the Emirates contributed,” the source said.

Karim Bitar, Senior Fellow at the Institute for International and Strategic Affairs in Paris, said that “France’s relationship with the UAE has been particularly strong in the past 10 years and has been getting even stronger.”

France has significant defence contracts with the UAE and has strong political, cultural and economic ties. With €3.6 billion in French exports to the Emirates, the UAE has become France’s second-largest export destination in the Gulf. The volume of bilateral trade was at €4.66 billion in 2016, and more than 600 French companies are registered in the UAE.

"France tends to send its best ambassadors, its best diplomats to the UAE," Mr Bitar told The National.  "It's a major Arab partner."

The conversation between the Crown Prince and the French heads of state was expected to touch upon the peace process in Yemen.

The UN Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths arrived in Sanaa on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for peace talks in Sweden amid renewed fighting in the port city of Hodeidah.

He is scheduled to meet the Iranian backed Houthi militias in an attempt to persuade them to begin negotiations in Sweden next month.

The UAE has been supportive of the UN-led peace process. Together with Saudi Arabia, the US and the UK, the UAE established earlier this month a committee to address Yemen’s economic and humanitarian crisis.

The Crown Prince was in Amman on Tuesday where he witnessed the pledging of $100 million (Dh367.3m) by the Khalifa Fund for 22,000 Jordanian businesses.


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