Mr. Macron was the first Western leader to travel to Abu Dhabi to pay tribute to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Emirati president who died on Friday, and to offer his “sincere condolences to all his family and to the people” of the Emirates, according to the French presidency.
Arrived early in the morning, Emmanuel Macron, who was making the first trip of his new five-year term which began on Saturday after his re-election on April 24, went to a palace in Abu Dhabi where Mohammed ben Zayed Al-Nayane welcomed him, says “MBZ”, who has become the new president of this oil-rich country.
Mr. Macron “expressed his determination to pursue and develop all that they have undertaken together for five years. The United Arab Emirates are a strategic partner of France, and the extent of our cooperation, in such varied fields that defence, culture and education, testifies to it”, specified the presidency while reporting on the exchange.
The two men then joined the “majlis”, the assembly which brings together in a huge hall of the palace the very many members of the family of the deceased, since his death at the age of 73.
Shortly after, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, also met MBZ to whom he presented his condolences for the death of his half-brother, then his congratulations on his election as President of the Emirates.
Queen Elizabeth II also sent her congratulations.
The Israeli, German and Indonesian President, the Emir of Qatar, the King of Bahrain and Spain are also due to visit the Emirates, as are US Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The UAE wields increased influence in the Middle East and beyond through its oil resources and strategic location.
MBZ has been considered the de facto ruler of the country since 2014, when Sheikh Khalifa, his 73-year-old half-brother, was sidelined following a stroke.
– “Concerns” around Ukraine –
A close ally of MBZ, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, called the new Emirati president to congratulate him.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised his “dynamic and visionary leadership” in a tweet, and Chinese President Xi Jinping for his part promised to work on “deepening a strategic partnership” between the two countries.
Leaders of countries around the world including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Oman and Tunisia and the de facto ruler of Sudan, offered their condolences on Saturday.
Emmanuel Macron, who met MBZ many times during his first term, never spoke with Sheikh Khalifa, who has declined since his stroke in 2014.
The French president had visited the Emirates in December 2021, where he had visited the Dubai World Expo and supervised the signing of several contracts, including one for the supply of 80 Rafale fighter jets, a record order for the French fighter aircraft entered service in 2004.
The French and Emirati presidents expressed “their concerns” about the war in Ukraine and its consequences, “particularly on energy and global food security”, according to Mr. Macron’s entourage.
The latter also had a meeting with his Mauritanian counterpart, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, one of the many leaders present in Abu Dhabi to offer their condolences.
Emmanuel Macron was due to return to Paris on Sunday evening, while the appointment of a new Prime Minister, followed by that of the government, is expected in France at the start of the week.