ABU DHABI // The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, spoke of the UAE's close ties to France at the opening of the new French embassy in the capital.
The embassy, based at Etihad Towers, will be open for business from next week and replaces the old premises in the Al Manasir area, at the junction between Delma and 26th streets.
According to embassy officials, the new premises will cover two floors at Etihad Towers and will accommodate the French Trade Commission, which was based outside the embassy complex.
Speaking at the gala dinner to commemorate the opening on Saturday night, Sheikh Abdullah said he wanted to further enhance ties between the two countries.
He said that trade between the two stood at Dh14 billion last year, making the UAE France's fourth biggest trade surplus partner.
In addition, Sheikh Abdullah praised France for its stance on Emirati visas for Europe.
"France showed support to efforts by the UAE for exemption of Emiratis from entry visas to Schengen countries," he said.
"Visa exemption in European Union-member countries is among the important pillars for our foreign policy, so France's support to our efforts received appreciation and gratitude from our side."
The Foreign Minister also talked of a common interest in international security.
"France is at the forefront of countries involved in combating risks to international stability. The UAE supported France's efforts in Mali to enforce peace and security in Mali, Libya and Afghanistan."
Another topic of conversation was Emirates Airline's renewal of its sponsorship of football team Paris Saint-Germain through to the 2018/2019 season.
Sheikh Abdullah said Emiratis feel proud to see Emirates' logo on the French Ligue 1 champions' shirts.
The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said his country and the UAE have had 42 years of friendship and partnership in various spheres including economy, culture and strategic relations.
"The relationship between France and the UAE is best personified on a painting that will be present at the Louvre Abu Dhabi," said Mr Fabius.
"The painting might not be the biggest or the most famous but it is absolutely beautiful; it was made by a Turkish artist in 1878 and it is a portrait of a young prince.
"When you pass this painting, stop and look at it, because it represents everything that is in the relationship between the UAE and France, the ties between East and West, the focus on education and culture as well as openness towards the outside - think about the UAE-France relationship and look at that painting."
The ministers had earlier had talks on greater cooperation, as well as regional and international developments.