France introduced the signing Friday of a 16 billion-euro (USD 18 billion) armaments mega-contract for the sale of 80 of its upgraded Rafale warplanes to the United Arab Emirates.
The French Defense Ministry mentioned the deal was France’s largest-ever weapons contract for export. It got here as French President Emmanuel Macron is within the Emirates on the primary cease of a two-day go to to the Persian Gulf. There was no rapid affirmation of the signing from Emirati officers.
Manufacturer Dassault Aviation mentioned the UAE is shopping for the upgraded F4 model of its multi-role fight plane. That will make the Emirates Air Force the primary Rafale F4 consumer exterior of France, it mentioned.
The deal provides a shot within the arm for France’s protection business after the collapse of a $66 billion contract for Australia to purchase 12 French submarines.
Dassault Aviation boss Eric Trappier referred to as the sale “a French success story” and “excellent news for France and for its aeronautical industry.”
The buy marks a sizeable step up for the UAE’s navy capabilities within the oil- and gas-rich area. Charles Forrester, a senior analyst at Janes, mentioned the fighter “will significantly upgrade UAE’s airpower capabilities in terms of strike, air-to-air warfare, and reconnaissance.”
Dassault said the Rafale will give the UAE “a tool capable of guaranteeing sovereignty and operational independence.”
Macron and Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, were present at the contract signing, it said.
French defense officials were jubilant. The defense minister, Florence Parly, said the deal “directly contributes to regional stability.”
France has deep ties to the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven sheikdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, notably because the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults. The UAE opened a French naval base in 2009 at Abu Dhabi’s Port Zayed.
French warplanes and personnel are additionally stationed at Al-Dhafra Air Base, a significant facility exterior the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi that is additionally dwelling to a number of thousand American troops.
Macron’s eager curiosity in forging personal relationships with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and his counterpart in Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin Salman Al Saud, makes him a welcome visitor within the area. Both Gulf leaders worth a level of pragmatism when discussing democracy and human rights — points on which their international locations have been heavy criticized by rights teams and European lawmakers — whereas pursuing business alternatives.
Months after Macron was elected in 2017, he traveled to the UAE to inaugurate Louvre Abu Dhabi, constructed beneath a $1.2 billion settlement to share the identify and artwork of the world-famous museum in Paris.
In September, Macron hosted Abu Dhabi’s crown prince on the historic Chateau de Fontainebleau exterior Paris, which was restored in 2019 with a UAE donation of 10 million euros ($11.3 million).
The UAE and France have additionally turn out to be more and more aligned over a shared distrust of Islamist political events throughout the Middle East, and backed the identical facet in Libya’s civil strife.
A senior French presidency official who spoke to reporters forward of the journey on customary situation of anonymity mentioned Macron will “continue to push and support the efforts that contribute to the stability of the region, from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.”
Gulf tensions will likely be mentioned, the official mentioned, specifically the revived talks about Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, following the U.S. withdrawal from the settlement by President Donald Trump. Gulf international locations have lengthy been involved by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and affect throughout the area, notably in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
“This is a hot topic,” the French official mentioned, including that Macron mentioned the problems in a telephone name Monday with Iran’s president. He will speak in regards to the name and the problems — together with the nuclear deal talks in Vienna — with Gulf leaders, who’re “directly concerned by this subject, like all of us but also because they are (Iran’s) neighbors,” the official mentioned.
France, alongside with Germany and the U.Okay., thinks the 2015 nuclear settlement — with minor tweaks — is the way in which ahead with Iran, analysts say. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have bitterly opposed the West’s negotiated deal with Iran.
“Although the Gulf countries did not like the West’s deal with Iran, the prospect of it falling apart acrimoniously is also bad for them and arguably presents worse risks,” mentioned Jane Kinninmont, a London-based Gulf skilled with the European Leadership Network think-tank.
“Their view has always been the West should have gotten more out of Iran before sealing the deal,” Kinninmont mentioned. “But if the West walks away with nothing, the Gulf countries are beginning to understand that their security will not improve as a result.”