In Dubai, Emmanuel Macron defends his choice to deal with the authoritarian regimes of the Gulf

The setting, that of the Dubai World Expo, each with more grandiose pavilions than the next, lends itself to staging. The signing of the record contract for the sale of 80 Rafale to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was nevertheless held in relative discretion on the morning of Friday, December 3. The French president had barely landed in the economic capital of the Emirates, the first stop on a two-day express visit to the Gulf.

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Some photos taken on the fly in a vast marble palace, no joint press conference between Emmanuel Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Zayed: the two men and their delegation just had lunch together in a nearby restaurant, to celebrate this moment in both expected and controversial.

The contract, accompanied by the sale of twelve Airbus Caracal helicopters and various economic partnership agreements, certainly puts an end to years of negotiations between three French presidents – Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande then Emmanuel Macron – and their Emirati counterparts. But with this signature, Dassault Aviation also succeeds in the feat of exporting more aircraft to its six client countries than it sells, at this stage, to the French armies. From the point of view of French officials, this is partly to be consoled for the setback suffered in mid-September, when Australia gave up the purchase of twelve conventional French submarines, in favor of American nuclear-powered ships, after the announcement of the defense pact between Canberra, London and Washington, negotiated behind Paris.

France, “a solid partner”

“It is the largest military contract with a French component in our history”, welcomed Mr. Macron, crossing the press a little later, without his host of the day. Building on this export success, the Head of State then visited, with a smile on his face, the French pavilion at the Universal Exhibition. The latter seeks precisely to showcase French technology.

The only downside, which perhaps explains the sobriety of this announcement: the criticisms of human rights organizations on this visit. “What is good for the French, I defend it ardently”, argues Emmanuel Macron, right in his boots, to justify the signing of such contracts with authoritarian regimes. For the head of state, this is proof of the closeness of the links forged between Paris and Abu Dhabi, in particular during his tenure.

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