Abu Dhabi: Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said on Monday that the strategic co-operation with France is a top priority for the UAE's foreign policy, because it cements stability and development in the Gulf.

The UAE and France are due to sign a memorandum of understanding that provides for appointing Emirati diplomats at French missions in countries in which the UAE has no diplomatic missions.

Nicholas Sarcozy, President of the French Republic, arrived in the UAE last night. President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Sarkozy will formally inaugurate the French Maritime Base in Abu Dhabi today.

Welcoming Sarkozy's state visit, Shaikh Abdullah reiterated the UAE's interest in widening the avenues of joint cooperation and investment between both nations and valued the successful cultural and scientific convergence between the UAE and France.

This was reflected by the establishment of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum at the Saadiyat Island, the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and the UAE's contribution to restoration of the Palace of Fontainebleau, the largest French royal palace and park.

Speaking at a regional maritime security conference in Abu Dhabi, Shaikh Abdullah also cited the landmark nuclear co-operation agreement between the UAE and France, which provides a framework for cooperation between the two countries in the evaluation and potential use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Under the agreement, the UAE and France set up a high-level joint committee to supervise cooperation in the areas of nuclear power generation, water desalination, basic and applied research, as well as in agronomy, earth sciences, medicine and industry.

The UAE is France's largest trade partner in the Middle East, with the French investments in the UAE amounting to more than Dh3 billion.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said France's first military base in the Gulf will fight piracy, safeguard crucial oil and gas routes and protect environment against pollution.