JEDDAH: The UAE volunteered to send diesel oil to France on Monday, amid fears that Russia could cut off gas supplies to Europe in retribution for Western sanctions over Ukraine’s incursion.
The new action came after negotiations between UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
“Collaboration across all forms of energy is vital, and the UAE is committed to ensuring energy security for all people, particularly the French,” Sheikh Mohammed added.
Sheikh Mohamed landed in Paris on Monday for his first official tour outside the Gulf region since taking office in May.
He was received in an official ceremony at the Élysée Palace to meet Macron and discuss combined action in the domains of “future energy, climate change, and advanced technologies,” as well as efforts to strengthen regional security and stability, according to the state news agency WAM.
Both countries’ officials also signed a broader strategic agreement to collaborate in the energy sector. According to the French government, the cooperation aimed to identify cooperative investment projects in France, the UAE, or elsewhere in the sectors of hydrogen, renewable, and nuclear energy.
“In the current uncertain energy scenario,” it stated, “this agreement will prepare the foundation for a stable long-term framework for cooperation, paving the path for new industrial contracts.”
Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s presidential foreign adviser, stated that the country is “committed to remain a reliable partner and supply of energy.” “We’ve sold our oil to the Far East for 40 years, and now we’re channeling it toward Europe at this moment of difficulty,” he explained.
The EU is bracing for a Russian gas shutdown in the face of skyrocketing energy prices, widespread inflation, and a cost-of-living crisis in the 27-member bloc.
Already, Russia has cut off or restricted gas supply to a dozen European countries. The massive Nord Stream 1 pipeline between Russia and Germany was shut down for repairs last week, and there are fears that flows will not resume.
To avoid a winter energy disaster, leaders have been hurrying to fill underground storage tanks. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is in Algeria, where agreements to increase gas supply from Algeria to Italy are likely to be completed on Tuesday.
Macron advocated last week for a faster transition to offshore wind farms and increased European cross-border energy cooperation “as we prepare ourselves for the eventuality in which we must go without any Russian gas.”
Relations between the two countries date back to the formation of the UAE Federation, when some French petroleum companies, such as Total, were involved in oil exploration in the UAE, and these ties were strengthened following the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-first Nahyan’s visit to France in 1976.
France is a major foreign investor in the UAE. French direct investments in the UAE are expected to total 2.5 billion euros by the end of 2020, with the UAE ranking 35th among foreign investors in France.
Sheikh Mohamed’s choice to undertake his first official visit to France “is a deliberate one that recognizes not just the historic links between the two nations, but also the possibility for even greater cooperation and progress with France,” Gargash said on Friday.