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Macron Tours French Naval Base in Abu Dhabi Near New Louvre

  • Associated Press

French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with French military personnel at the naval base during his second day of visit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017.

French President Emmanuel Macron promised on Thursday that the West and its partners will "completely win" over the so-called Islamic State group in the coming weeks, applauding the help offered by the United Arab Emirates in the battle against extremism.

After focusing the day before on cultural ties between France and the UAE with the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Macron on Thursday toured a nearby French naval base and discussed the military cooperation between the two nations.

"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.

"France's military capacity is at the heart of my ambitions for our country," he added.

Macron visited the Camp Peace 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 on 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, noting their work to both battle extremists and stop smugglers and piracy in the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters.

The French naval base opened in 2009, a reflection of 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.

While Macron toured the naval base, his wife Brigitte visited Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, its gleaming white marble minarets and walls shining brightly in the desert sun. Out of respect, she covered her head with a brown, white and black scarf with an Arabic-inspired design while touring the mosque, walking across its carpeting with her bare feet.

Macron then traveled to Dubai and met with ruling Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as the UAE's vice president and prime minister. Sheikh Mohammed also had attended the Louvre Abu Dhabi opening Wednesday night.

The French president then attended an economic forum, where he offered a speech in English applauding the Emirates' efforts in fighting those "betraying" Islam through both military might, as well as its cultural offerings.

"Our common challenge today is how to defend light, tolerance and respect of each other," Macron said. "That's the challenge of our generation."

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