(AP) — France announced multibillion-euro deals Friday to sell fighter planes and combat helicopters to the United Arab Emirates, aiming to boost military cooperation with its top ally in the Persian Gulf amid their shared concerns about Iran.
The UAE is buying 80 upgraded Rafale warplanes in a deal the French Defense Ministry said is worth 16 billion euros ($18 billion) and represents the largest-ever French weapons contract for export. It also announced a deal with the UAE to sell 12 Airbus-built combat helicopters.
They offer a shot in the arm for France’s defense industry after the collapse of a $66 billion contract for Australia to but 12 French submarines that ultimately went to the U.S. But the deals faced criticism by human rights groups concerned about the UAE’s involvement in the yearslong war in Yemen.
The UAE contracts were signed as French President Emmanuel Macron visited the country on the first stop of a two-day visit to the Persian Gulf. France and Gulf countries have long been concerned by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and influence across the region, particularly in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
France has particularly deep ties to the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. France has a naval base there and French warplanes and personnel also are stationed in a major facility outside the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.
Speaking to reporters in Dubai, Macron said they are important contracts for the deepening defense cooperation between France and the UAE that will contribute to the stability of the region and enhance a common fight against terrorism.
In addition, “it’s important for our economy because the planes are manufactured in France,” he said.