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Why the Emir of Qatar is at home at the Élysée with Kylian Mbappé

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He won’t need a guide to get to the dining room. Emmanuel Macron, of course, will be waiting for him on the steps of the Élysée. But for the rest, the Emir of Qatar knows the way by heart.

Tamim al-Thani, 43, is one of France’s strongest allies in the Arab world. He owns Paris Saint-Germain, this football club in the capital which despairs of one day winning a European court, but monopolizes the attention of the media thanks to its star who is now heading to new skies of football. : Kylian Mbappé, 25 years old. The captain of the French team will also be present at the dinner for the start of this state visit, alongside Nasser al-Khelaïfi, the boss of PSG who, in his country, is a minister without a government portfolio.

Tamin al-Thani, however, is not close to Emmanuel Macron. The man he knows best, in the French political inner circle, is former president Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012). The former tenant of the Élysée has often been cited to take over as president of Paris Saint Germain, which has not yet materialized.

It must be said that Qatar smells of sulfur for the husband of Carla Bruni: it was during a lunch in this same presidential palace, on November 23, 2010, with the man who was then only crown prince, and Michel Platini, that a pact would have been sealed between the three to support the attribution of the World Cup to the Emirate. Platini then chaired UEFA, the powerful European Football Federation based in Nyon (VD).

His presence at this famous lunch subsequently caused him a lot of trouble. The latest is a complaint for corruption filed in April 2023 by the French association Anticor, targeting Sarkozy, former Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, and former secretary general of the Élysée Claude Guéant. The accusations? Influence peddling, corruption of a foreign public official, criminal conspiracy, illegal financing of an electoral campaign, and concealment of the same crime.

Huge real estate heritage

The other weighty argument of the Emir of Qatar in France is his real estate assets. Tamim ben Hamad al-Thani owns, through a company, a magnificent two-story mansion located on Square de Luynes, in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, a stone’s throw from Boulevard Saint-Germain. Geographical irony: this resort is almost next to the apartment of a former French Minister of Foreign Affairs.

But be careful: this private home is only the tip of the Qatari real estate iceberg. The Emirate also owns the Concorde Lafayette, the Louvre hotel in Paris, the Raffles Hotel (formerly Royal Monceau), the Peninsula Hotel, plus 35,000 square meters on the Champs-Élysées, including the Élysée shopping gallery 26. Ditto for the Hôtel d’Évreux on Place Vendôme and the sumptuous Hôtel Lambert on Île Saint-Louis in Paris. In short: Emmanuel Macron is almost surrounded. It’s impossible not to come across a Qatari property around the Élysée.

Gas economic lever

On the financial and economic side, Qatar’s lever is liquefied gas, which the Emirate sells to France, one of its first customers, the world’s 4th largest importer of LNG. An agreement signed in October 2023 guarantees the delivery of 3.5 million tonnes per year to France over 27 years! Enough to obtain a place of choice among Emmanuel Macron’s privileged diplomatic interlocutors in the Middle East, where Qatar is today the main negotiator between Hamas, of which it shelters several leaders, and Israel.

The question of Gaza will obviously be at the center of discussions between the French president and the Emir. But this subject will undoubtedly be discussed at another time. For the opening dinner, it could well be that the conversations focus on two other subjects: the upcoming departure of Kylian Mbappé from PSG and the refusal of the Paris town hall to sell the Parc des Princes to the club where he plays at home.

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