France's Macron meets UAE's 'MBZ' at start of Gulf tour

Dubai (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Friday at the start of a two-day Gulf tour with some lucrative deals set to be signed including several for Rafale fighter jets.


Macron was greeted at the leadership pavilion at Dubai's Expo site for talks with Sheikh Mohammed, known as "MBZ", after which they are expected to announce a series of contracts and agreements.

"I don't want to reveal the Christmas present" before the meeting, UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash told journalists in the build-up to the talks in Dubai.

Macron arrived in the early hours of Friday for a brief Gulf tour where he will also visit Qatar, host of next year's World Cup, before travelling to Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

The UAE, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Thursday, is expected to order dozens of Rafale jets to replace its Mirage 2000 aircraft acquired in the late 1990s.

The Emirates is the fifth biggest customer for the French defence industry with 4.7 billion euros from 2011-2020, according to a parliamentary report.

France has faced criticism after some of these weapons were used in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting Iran-backed rebels in a war that has created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

Macron is accompanied by a large delegation in Dubai including Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Defence Minister Florence Parly.