FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron (centre) and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (right) visit the imperial theatre of the Chateau of Fontainebleau, near Paris.—AFP
FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron (centre) and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (right) visit the imperial theatre of the Chateau of Fontainebleau, near Paris.—AFP

FONTAINEBLEAU: French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday held talks with the crown prince of the UAE’s Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, one of Paris’ closest allies in the Middle East region.

The two met for a working lunch at the historic Fontainebleau Chateau outside Paris, where the United Arab Emirates has played a key role in restoration works, correspondents said.

France has close military, political and cultural ties to the UAE. Abu Dhabi has in the last month served as a hub for the evacuation by Paris of French nationals and Afghans from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Macron also has a strong personal relationship with Mohammed bin Zayed, known as MBZ, who is seen as one of the most powerful figures in the Gulf, along with his close ally Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS.

Analysts believe Macron and MBZ are united by a shared distrust of political Islam and particularly activities of Islamist political parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East.

They also both have thorny relations with Turkey under its strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, even if there have been signs of a thaw in ties between Ankara and the UAE and Paris over the last weeks.

“The discussion will focus on the strategic partnership between the two countries and on all regional issues,” the Elysee said in a brief statement ahead of the talks.

They were also to visit the historic theatre at the Fontainebleau Palace built between 1853 and 1856 under the nephew of emperor Napoleon I, Napoleon III, which has been painstakingly restored thanks to UEA funding.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2021

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