France’s Hollande Exploits Political Openings to Deepen Gulf Ties

France’s Hollande Exploits Political Openings to Deepen Gulf Ties
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).

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.

France has many interests and a long history of involvement in the Gulf. Like other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Paris believes that it has a special responsibility in maintaining global peace and international order, and thus stability in the Middle East is obviously a long-standing concern. Though France is less dependent on imported hydrocarbons than some of its partners, given its significant reliance on nuclear-generated electricity, the security of Gulf oil and gas transit routes is also seen as a global and European public good. More recent concerns include nuclear nonproliferation and counterterrorism, which stem as much from France’s global responsibilities as from the fact that both issues now represent a direct threat to Europe.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.