France secured promises of new energy supplies from the United Arab Emirates on Monday after talks between President Emmanuel Macron and UAE leader Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in Paris.
The partnership aimed to identify joint investment projects in France, the UAE or elsewhere in the sectors of hydrogen, renewable and nuclear energy, the French government said in a statement.
“In the currently uncertain energy context, this agreement will pave the way for a stable long-term framework for cooperation, opening the way for new industrial contracts,” it added.
The UAE has emerged as a key partner for Western countries as they scramble for energy deals worldwide to replace imports from sanctions-hit Russia.
Sheikh Mohamed, also known as MBZ, was on his first overseas state visit since taking office in May following the death of his half-brother. He will be in France until Tuesday.
After lunch between the two heads of state, a deal between French energy giant Total Energies and UAE state oil company ADNOC was signed “for cooperation in the area of energy supplies”.
Macron’s aides had said before the meeting that France was eager to secure diesel from the strategic Middle Eastern nation.
“The UAE is keen to support energy security in the world in general and in France in particular,” Sheikh Mohamed told Macron, according to Emirati state news agency WAM.
Before the trip, his diplomatic advisor Anwar Gargash had stressed how the UAE was looking to reorient its supplies towards Europe.
“We have sold our oil to the far east for 40 years and now we are directing it toward Europe in this time of crisis,” he told reporters.
The UAE president’s visit to France came after Joe Biden’s first Middle East tour as president, which included a visit to Saudi Arabia for energy talks.
Macron and Biden were overheard talking about energy supplies from the Middle East at a G7 summit at the end of June in Germany.
Macron told Biden that he had spoken to Sheikh Mohammed who had said he was at his “maximum” in terms of oil production, but that the Saudis had some spare capacity.
After his lunch with Macron, Sheikh Mohamed is set to be guest of honour at a dinner at the former royal palace in Versailles outside Paris.
Human Rights Watch said Macron’s “search for alternative supplies seems likely to reinforce France and the UAE’s already close ties”.
But the welcome in Paris “should not include giving the crown prince a pass on the UAE’s atrocious human rights record”, it said in a statement on its website.
The New York-based group pointed to the repression of political opposition, discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and the abuse of domestic workers.
Western sanctions against the Russian energy sector following President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine mean many countries face shortfalls.
Analysts warn about possible shortages later this year, particularly if Russia further reduces its gas exports to Europe, France24 reports.
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