Cementing ties, UAE purchases 80 French-made Rafale warplanes – .

Macron to strike deal on Rafale fighter jet in UAE – .

French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a protective mask, awaits a guest at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 1, 2021. REUTERS / Sarah Meyssonnier

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DUBAI, Dec. 3 (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates on Friday ordered 80 Rafale fighter jets, the largest ever order for the warplane, a multibillion-dollar arms deal that strengthens economic ties and policies with France.

French President Emmanuel Macron began a two-day trip to the Gulf on Friday and will also visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia. His visit comes at a time when the Arab Gulf states have expressed uncertainty over the US focus on the region even as it seeks more weapons from its main security ally.

The French leader has forged good relations with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MBZ), with investments flowing between the two countries. Paris has a permanent military base in the UAE capital.

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“In addition to the presence of three French military bases on UAE territory, this mutual trust is reflected in the acquisition of 80 Rafale planes, 12 Caracal helicopters and associated elements,” the French presidency said in a statement to the ‘after a signing ceremony between MBZ and Macron on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo 2020.

Dassault shares rose 6% on the announcement.

The deal, which could be worth at least $ 15 billion, is the largest bulk purchase of the Rafale made by Dassault, other than the French military, and comes after the deals in Greece, Egypt and Croatia this year .

On-off negotiations for Rafale fighter jets have been going on for more than a decade, with Abu Dhabi publicly rejecting France’s offer to supply 60 Rafale jets in 2011, calling it “uncompetitive and unworkable”. Abu Dhabi already has Mirage fighter jets.

Defense sources said the Rafale will replace the Mirage 2000 fleet and is unlikely to replace the US F-35, as the UAE continues to cover its security with two main suppliers, France. and the United States.

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Additional reports by Tim Hepher; Editing by Tim Hepher, Karishma Singh and David Evans

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