UAE agrees to buy 80 Rafale fighter jets during Macron visit
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UAE agrees to buy 80 Rafale fighter jets during Macron visit

UAE agrees to buy 80 Rafale fighter jets during Macron visit

The UAE is also buying 12 Caracal military helicopters from Airbus

The UAE signed a long-delayed deal to buy 80 Rafale fighter jets from France during President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the Gulf nation on Friday.

The deal was announced in a statement from the French presidency following a meeting between Macron and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, known as MBZ, on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo.

As well as the fighters produced by Dassault Aviation, the UAE is also buying 12 Caracal military helicopters from Airbus. France said the two contracts are worth more than EUR17bn ($19bn). The UAE’s Mubadala wealth fund also signed deals totaling another EUR10bn during the trip.

Dassault Aviation shares jumped 9 per cent to EUR91.75 at 10.09am in Paris, its biggest gain in more than a year. Thales, which provides missile guidance systems, was up 2.3 per cent.

Discussions between Paris and Abu Dhabi over the fighter jets have dragged on for more than a decade but the negotiations were given new impetus by the UAE’s doubts over buying more F-35 fighters from the US, according to officials involved in the negotiation.

The Emiratis have frequently told their US counterparts that they prefer to buy American hardware but Washington puts so many restrictions on their use that they also need other suppliers.

France and the UAE share common interests in the Middle East and beyond.

The UAE and France have also sided with Greece in its dispute with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean over gas exploration and sovereignty. While the UAE has moved to patch up relations with Turkey, this is likely to remain a sticking point and shared concern.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian took part in previous discussions over the Rafale deal when he was defense minister under Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande.

The deal is likely to offer a boost to Macron ahead of April’s presidential election. MBZ previously met with Macron in September at the Fontainebleau castle near Paris. This is Macron’s second visit to the UAE as president.

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