Paris/Abu Dhabi – French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday inaugurated a French military base in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, France’s first such installation in the Gulf region.
The base, which will house about 500 French navy, army and air force personnel, is located just across the Strait of Hormuz from Iran, a highly sensitive location given current tensions over Teheran’s nuclear program and its continuing diplomatic stand-off with Israel.
“If Iran attacks the Emirates, it also attacks France,” a diplomat told the daily Le Monde. “Given current events, it is no trifling matter to be able to benefit from an infrastructure capable of housing submarines and receiving nuclear aircraft carriers.”
In addition to its geopolitical importance, the base will also play an important role in maritime security. Two French frigates will be operating from the base to safeguard trade and help fight piracy off the Somali coast.
In addition, as part of the installation, troops trained in urban combat will de stationed at the desert camp at Zayed Military City.
The Abu Dhabi military base is France’s first such foreign undertaking in more than 50 years, although it has sent troops to Chad as part of an EU force, as well as other former African colonies.
The base will also serve French interests as a stopover for troops traveling to and from Afghanistan, where France has deployed some 2,800 soldiers to fight against the Taliban.
Also present at the ceremony in Abu Dhabi were UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Foreign Minister Anwar Qurqash.
According to Qurqash, this project with France signifies the “just how highly the UAE regards Paris as a strategic ally as it is adopting balanced policies towards a range of Arab and regional issues.”(dpa)