PARIS (AP) – France and the United Arab Emirates on Monday signed an energy cooperation agreement to ensure oil and natural gas supplies to the Gulf country as Europe prepares for the possibility of a blackout. of gas from Russia in retaliation for sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
The agreement announced by the French Ministry of Economy comes as President Emmanuel Macron receives United Arab Emirates President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Paris.
“The agreement we are signing with the United Arab Emirates has a double strategic importance: it allows us to respond in the short term to the pressing challenges of energy security, while preparing for a decarbonized future”, declared the French Minister of Finance, Bruno Le Maire. in a report.
The ministry did not provide details of the agreement or when it will be signed.
Other trade and energy deals are expected to be signed during Sheikh Mohammed’s first state visit to France since he was named president of the Western-allied nation of the seven emirates in May. They include an agreement between French energy giant TotalEnergies and Abu Dhabi’s national oil company to secure energy supplies, the economy ministry said.
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France has deep ties with the United Arab Emirates and the two leaders have developed a personal relationship. That paid off during Macron’s visit to Abu Dhabi last year, which resulted in a 16 billion euro ($18 billion) arms deal with the Gulf ally’s biggest. French arms contract never exported.
Their meeting on Monday comes as war in Ukraine rages into the sixth month and Europe is in the grip of a sweltering heat wave. European countries are bracing for a possible Russian gas shutdown amid soaring energy prices, inflation and a cost of living crisis in the 27-member bloc.
Russia has cut off or reduced natural gas – which keeps industry running, generates electricity and heats homes in winter – to a dozen European countries. A major gas pipeline was also closed for scheduled maintenance last week, and there are fears that flows via Nord Stream 1 between Russia and Germany could restart.
Leaders have been scrambling to fill the underground storage by early fall to avoid an economic and political crisis in the winter. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi travels to Algeria on Monday to finalize agreements to boost the North African country’s natural gas supply to Italy, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was in Azerbaijan to reach an agreement with President Ilham Aliyev on increasing gas supplies.
Macron said last week that his government would prepare a “sobriety plan” to save energy and that France continues to seek to diversify gas sources. He called for a faster transition to offshore wind farms and greater European cross-border energy cooperation “as we prepare for the scenario where we have to do without all Russian gas”.
The Mayor said last month that the country was in talks with the United Arab Emirates over oil and diesel supplies to find “an alternative to Russian gasoline”.
TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanne told parliament last week that the French energy giant was “discussing a deal to gain access to diesel and fuel from the Emirates this winter”.
He said the company’s efforts were part of France’s initiative to secure enough energy and compensate for the loss of Russian supplies.
UAE energy exports to France are dominated by refined petroleum products and reached a record sum of 1.5 billion euros in 2019.
The US Energy Information Agency cites figures estimating that the UAE holds the seventh largest proven reserves of natural gas in the world, at more than 215 trillion cubic feet. The country, which sits on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula along the Persian Gulf, is among the top 10 oil producers in the world, with most of the country’s oil and gas wealth concentrated in Abu Dhabi.
Human rights groups have called on Macron to remind his UAE counterpart of his country’s poor human rights record.
“For years, the UAE has systematically crushed dissent,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement ahead of Monday’s visit. “Activists, lawyers, teachers, students and people seen as critics are arrested, prosecuted and detained, women and LGBT people are discriminated against.”
Surk reported from Nice, France.