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French President Francois Hollande with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council before the opening of its summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 5, 2015 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

France’s Hollande Exploits Political Openings to Deepen Gulf Ties

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

French President Francois Hollande made a triumphal visit to the oil- and gas-rich kingdoms of the Persian Gulf earlier this month, touching down in Qatar to oversee the signing of a contract for the sale of 24 Rafale fighter jets, then continuing on to Saudi Arabia to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit as the guest of honor, a first for a Western head of state.

Hollande’s Gulf tour was in part the product of shrewd French diplomacy, which took advantage of Arab displeasure at current U.S. policies in the region, most of all a framework agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. Nevertheless, a look at the history and nature of France’s Gulf ties makes it clear that the honeymoon period could end up lasting. ...

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