In the context of strengthening relations with France, the UAE has ordered the purchase of combat aircraft and helicopters worth 19 billion dollars

In the context of strengthening relations with France, the UAE has ordered the purchase of combat aircraft and helicopters worth 19 billion dollars

DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates on Friday ordered 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 military helicopters to deepen economic and political ties with France through a 17 billion euro ($19.20 billion) arms contract.

The largest overseas sale of a French fighter jet has closed as French President Emmanuel Macron begins a two-day trip to the Gulf that will take him to Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

“This contract is historic,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said in a statement.

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The French presidency said that the deal signed at a ceremony between Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Macron on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo 2020 is worth 19 billion dollars.

“This contract reinforces an increasingly strong strategic partnership and contributes directly to regional stability,” the French presidency said in a statement.

Macron’s visit comes at a time when Arab Gulf states have expressed uncertainty about the US focus on the region, even as they seek more weapons from their main security ally.

The French leader established a good relationship with Mohammed bin Zayed through the flow of investment between the two countries. Paris has a permanent military base in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Shares of Dassault Aviation, the maker of the Rafale aircraft, rose more than 9%.

It is the largest wholesale purchase of a Dassault-made Rafale, with the exception of the French military, and is tracking deals in Greece, Egypt and Croatia this year.

Abu Dhabi also ordered 12 Caracal helicopters. Codenamed H225M in France, it is the versatile military version of the Super Puma.

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Sporadic negotiations over the Rafale fighter have continued for more than a decade, with Abu Dhabi publicly rejecting France’s offer to supply 60 Rafale combat aircraft in 2011, calling it “uncompetitive and impractical.” Abu Dhabi already has French-made Mirage 2000 combat aircraft.

Defense sources said the Rafale will replace the Mirage 2000 fleet, but is unlikely to replace the US-made F-35 fighter as the UAE continues to hedge its security with two major suppliers, France and the United States.

However, the deal could be seen as a sign of impatience as the US Congress is reluctant to approve the F-35 deal due to concerns about the UAE’s relationship with China, including the spread of Huawei (HWT.UL) 5G technology in the country.

Paris is a major supplier of arms to the United Arab Emirates but is under increasing pressure to reform its sales as a result of the conflict between the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and Iran’s Houthi rebels in Yemen, which has become one of the world’s countries. The worst humanitarian aid. activities. calamity.

“France continues these sales despite the UAE playing a leading role in the Saudi-led coalition’s brutal military operations in Yemen,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. The French president should denounce human rights. Violations in these three counties.

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Additional coverage by Tim Hever. Editing by Tim Hever, Charisma Singh, David Evans and Simon Cameron Moore

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