Macron tours French naval base in Abu Dhabi near new Louvre
French President Emmanuel Macron toured a French naval base in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, a sign of Paris' deepening military and cultural ties to Abu Dhabi.
Macron visited the naval base at Abu Dhabi's Port Zayed, which sits just across the waters of the Persian Gulf from the new Louvre Abu Dhabi, which he helped inaugurate Wednesday night. The museum's saltshaker-like dome sits in sight of the base.
A military band played "La Marseillaise" and an honor guard met Macron before he boarded and walked through the French frigate Jean Bart.
The French president later addressed gathered sailors there. He described the base as a crucial part of France's battle against extremists in the region like the Islamic State group, as well as the effort to stop smugglers and piracy in the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters.
"We have won in Raqqa and in the coming weeks, the coming months, I believe it strongly, we will completely win on the military level in the Iraqi-Syrian zone," Macron said, referring to the one-time self-described capital of the Islamic State group.
He added: "France's military capacity is at the heart of my ambitions for our country."
He also applauded the cooperation the French military has throughout the region, specifically in the UAE.
The French naval base opened in 2009 and shows France's deepening military cooperation with the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. It also stations troops and planes at Al-Dhafra Air Base, home to some of the 5,000 American troops stationed in the country.
Culturally, Abu Dhabi agreed to pay France $525 million for the use of the "Louvre" name for the next 30 years and six months for its new museum, plus another $750 million to hire French managers to oversee the 300 loaned works of art. A center at Paris' Louvre now bears the name of the late UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which was also part of the deal.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
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