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Cementing ties with France, UAE places $19 bln order for warplanes, helicopters

French President Emmanuel Macron wears a protective mask and waits for a guest at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Messonnier

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

The largest foreign sale of a French warplane has been closed as French President Emmanuel Macron embarked on 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 ever stronger strategic partnership and contributes directly to regional stability,” the French presidency said in a statement.

Macron’s visit comes at a time when Gulf Arab 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 as investments flowed between the two countries. Paris has a permanent military base in the UAE capital.

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

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

Abu Dhabi also ordered 12 Caracal helicopters. It’s the French codename H225M, the multirole military version of the Super Puma.

Intermittent negotiations over the Rafale fighter jet took more than a decade with Abu Dhabi publicly rejecting France’s offer to supply 60 Rafale jets in 2011, calling it “uncompetitive and impractical”. Abu Dhabi already has French-made Mirage 2000 warplanes.

Defense sources said the Rafale will replace the Mirage 2000 fleet, but is unlikely to replace the US-made F-35 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 amid concerns about the UAE’s relationship with China, including the spread of Huawei (HWT.UL) 5G technology in the country.

Paris is a major arms supplier to the United Arab Emirates, but it has faced increasing pressure to review its sales due to the conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen, which has become one of the world’s worst humanitarian operations. crises.

“France is moving forward with 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. Abuses in these three provinces.

(1 dollar = 0.8856 euros)

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Additional reporting by Tim Hever. Editing by Tim Hever, Karisma Singh, David Evans and Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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