The United Arab Emirates signed a contract on Friday to acquire 80 French Rafale fighter jets, coinciding with the visit to Dubai by French President Emmanuel Macron, for whom it is a “great achievement of the strategic agreement between the two countries.”
This acquisition, the largest order for Rafale aircraft since the aircraft entered service in 2004, is also joined by 12 long-range Caracal helicopters, for a total of more than $ 19 billion (including $ 2 billion in weaponry and “military equipment”). associates “), according to the French Defense Ministry.
“It is a great achievement of the strategic agreement between the two countries,” celebrated the French president, who highlighted the importance of the presence of three French military bases in the Emirates.
The acquisition is “one of the largest French military contracts in our history,” he stressed, adding that it shows that the Emirates considers France a “solid” and “reliable” partner, which “fulfills its commitments.”
For his part, the CEO of Dassault Aviation (manufacturer of the Rafale), Eric Trappier, declared that the purchase was “a success for France”. Trappier signed the contract on the first day of President Macron’s visit to three Gulf countries, during which he met with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed, known as MBZ.
– “Historical contract” –
The aircraft will be delivered from 2027. It is the standard F4 version of the Rafale, which will cost more than 2 billion dollars to develop until 2024, and is presented as a “technological, industrial and strategic leap.”
In France, Defense Minister Florence Parly spoke of a “historic contract” that contributes “directly to regional stability.”
For Emmanuel Macron, the purchase is “very good for France” because it “creates employment” in the country and allows “guaranteeing the longevity of the Rafale production chain until 2031”, according to the Ministry of Defense.
The United Arab Emirates is the fifth best customer for the French military industry for the period 2011-2020, with an amount of 5.3 billion dollars in orders, according to a report from the French parliament.
However, Paris has come under fire as its weapons have been used in the Yemen conflict, in which NGOs such as Amnesty International accuse Saudi Arabia and its allies of alleged war crimes.
In turn, during Emmanuel Macron’s visit, the ten-year extension agreement of the license of the Abu Dhabi Louvre museum branch (initially set in 2037) was signed until 2047, in exchange for $ 186 million. , a sample of the success of the establishment opened in 2017.
– “Reliable partner” –
Macron, who will also visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia during his three-day tour, wants to address “the fight against terrorism, radical Islamism and their financing” as he considers essential “to cooperate with these states to guarantee the security of the French and of the Europeans “, according to the French presidency.
Macron also wants France to play a role as “a reliable and indispensable partner that speaks to all actors” on major regional issues (Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, the Iranian nuclear program).
For this reason, it is expected to defend Lebanon against the sanctions of several Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia, which aggravate the crisis in this nation.
During his visit to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia this Friday, Macron will be one of the first Western leaders to meet Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
The presidency responded to the criticisms of the NGOs at this meeting, recalling that “when necessary, it addresses the issue of human rights with its interlocutors.”
“Who can think for a second that we are helping Lebanon, that we are preserving peace and stability in the Middle East if we say: ‘We are no longer talking to Saudi Arabia, the most populous and important country in the Gulf’?” Asked Macron .
The NGO Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Friday that “arms sales and the maintenance of dubious military agreements in the name of anti-terrorism, and to the detriment of human rights, will be a stain on Emmanuel Macron’s diplomatic balance.”