x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

French military base in Abu Dhabi to open in May

The first French base in the Gulf region will host up to 500 army, navy and air force military personnel.

Abu Dhabi// France's 500 person military base in Abu Dhabi is expected to open this May, it was reported today. President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit the UAE to inaugurate the base, French diplomatic sources were quoted as saying by the Asharaq Al-Awsat newspaper, according to Agence France-Presse. The agreement between France and the UAE to house the base in Abu Dhabi was signed last year. It will be the first French base in the Gulf region and will host up to 500 army, navy and air force military personnel, facing the Strait of Hormuz. It has also been reported that 150 navel personnel will be stationed at Abu Dhabi port. The Saudi paper reported French diplomatic sources as saying that this is part of France's efforts to strengthen relations with countries in the area. The waterway borders Iran, Oman and the UAE and is the only nautical passage to the ocean in the region. It is estimated that 40 per cent of the world's marine transported oil passes through the strait, which narrows to only 54km wide at some points. The French ambassador, Alain Azouaou, said in December that the region is becoming increasingly important to international security and that the base would provide a way for France to be "present where it should be present." Military co-operation between France and the UAE was solidified with a mutual defence agreement signed in 1995. It is also one of several nations assisting the UAE with nuclear energy. This is only the second military base operated by a Western country in the Gulf, excluding the United States. amcmeans@thenational.ae