Macron in the Gulf .. Political and economic goals and an eye on Iran’s markets through the Emirates
ParisFrench President Emmanuel Macron will start a two-day Gulf tour on Friday, during which he will visit the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Elysee Palace announced – the day before yesterday, Tuesday – that this tour will lead to the signing of a number of contracts with French companies.
Macron will be accompanied on his Gulf tour by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire, in addition to the Minister of Foreign Trade, the Minister of Culture, and heads of major French companies.
Although the Elysee’s statement was brief and did not refer to the most important topics to be discussed during Macron’s tour, observers expected that the Lebanese-Saudi-Gulf crisis, the Iranian nuclear program, world oil prices, the war in Yemen, the Libyan elections, the developments of the Palestinian cause, and Saudi relations with Iran; The most prominent topics that will be discussed in the meeting schedule and at the dialogue table.
Analysts’ opinions ranged between considering that the goal of Macron’s tour is to reposition France’s political, diplomatic and strategic position, and considering that its goals go to economic relations in the first place.
Improving the image of France
For his part, Jean-Bernard Veron, a strategic expert in international relations, former director of the Africa and Middle East region at the French Development Agency, believes that Macron seeks, through this visit, to prove France’s international and regional presence in the region, and to confirm that it always remains a strong force in the world.
He added to Al Jazeera Net, “Macron seeks to re-improve France’s image in the Gulf, play on the commercial and economic side, and the common interest between Paris and the countries of the region.”
He added that France is also seeking to re-deployment and political positioning, to try to play a major role in the Middle East and avoid leaving voids for competitors such as Iran, as well as contributing to resolving some of the many conflicts that strike this region, especially helping to solve the deep crisis that Lebanon is experiencing with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. It is certain – in Veron’s opinion – that the visit will focus on the issue of the Iranian nuclear file, the ongoing negotiations in Vienna and US sanctions against Iran.
Veron hinted that Macron’s accompaniment of the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, foretells the importance of the military and security aspect on this tour.
He pointed out that the tour seeks to sign deals to sell weapons and warplanes such as the Rafale, and technologically advanced military equipment, especially to Saudi Arabia, which seeks to develop its capabilities in its war against the Houthis in Yemen, and then – to a lesser extent – to sign deals with the UAE despite the great American competition in this market.
Regarding Macron’s efforts to play a mediating role between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, the strategic expert in international relations stressed that “after cutting Saudi aid to the Lebanese government, the economic situation worsened and the economic and political risks to Lebanon and its neighbors became real.”
He added, “Because Lebanon occupies an essential place in French diplomacy, there is no escape for Macron and France to try to return Lebanon to the Arab and international map, and this inevitably passes through resolving the deep crisis between it and Saudi Arabia. in order to solve this difficult problem.”
For his part, the economist Daniel Melhem pointed out that France has historically used its political relations to achieve an economic and strategic position in the Gulf region, and this is what it is trying to do today.
Melhem told Al Jazeera Net that France is practically looking for some new commercial and economic outlets in the Gulf region, especially since it has very strong relations with the UAE, through which it will seek to open a loophole with the Arab Gulf states.
In this context, he told Al Jazeera Net, “We know practically that the Arab Gulf historically has two main allies and trading partners, namely: the United States and Britain, in addition to China’s entry on the line in recent years through huge investments.
In Melhem’s opinion, France does not realistically possess the huge potentials that the United States or China possess to enter a strategic and essential partner for the Arab Gulf states, but it seeks to compensate for some losses in other regions through its distinguished relationship with the UAE, and this is what we witnessed through the strong and standard presence of companies and institutions French at the last Dubai Expo.
The economist also said that “the economic benefit that France seeks to obtain will be through technology, especially transportation technology, as well as trying to compensate through some arms deals and the sale of Rafale planes and some submarines and frigates that characterize the French industry, even if the United States does not allow the transfer of these technology”.
Eye on Iran
The other thing that is not announced about this visit, according to Melhem, is that Paris is looking to enter the Iranian market in the future after the Vienna Agreement, through the UAE market, which is the back garden of the Iranian market, as he described it.
Regarding the importance of Macron’s tour in boosting the French economy and giving it a strong dose in the agreements that will be signed, especially in light of the recession that France has witnessed due to the Corona crisis, Melhem said, “I think that the record French participation in the Dubai Expo with 425 companies is a prelude to this visit.”
He added that the record and the important attendance are for the first time outside France of this size, in addition to the fact that these companies all have strong relations with new technology and alternative energy companies, and this is a clear indication of the extent to which France looks forward to the future and to the strategic relationship with the Gulf countries.
Investing in alternative energy
Melhem concluded that with the difficulty of positioning firmly within the arms market in the Gulf, which is controlled by the United States and Britain, Macron is seeking to obtain some deals in the development of the transport market and technology that distinguishes France from the rest of its competitors, such as the development of high-speed trains “TGV” (TGV). ) between the Gulf countries, as well as projects of alternative, clean and environmentally friendly energies such as wind and solar energy.