Hollande in Qatar for Warplane Deal

Hollande in Qatar for Warplane DealHollande in Qatar for Warplane Deal

French President Francois Hollande sought to boost ties in the Persian Gulf Monday as he oversaw the signing of a warplanes deal with Qatar and headed to Saudi Arabia for a summit.

Hollande is to be the first western head of state to attend a summit of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council – (P)GCC- during the meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday, AFP reported.

With Hollande in attendance, the CEO of French aerospace firm Dassault, Eric Trappier, signed a $7 billion deal with Qatari defense officials in Doha. The agreement includes an order for 24 Rafale fighter jets, with an option on a further 12.

Having struggled for years to sell any Rafales abroad, Dassault has recently scored several lucrative high-profile contracts with Egypt, India, and now Qatar.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said recently that talks with the United Arab Emirates on buying Rafales were also headed in the “right direction.”

Hollande was to meet Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani before flying to Saudi Arabia for the summit and separate talks with Saudi King Salman.

Tuesday’s (P)GCC summit will bring together leaders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The summit comes at a crucial time for the six-nation (P)GCC, with a Saudi-led coalition bombing Houthi forces in Yemen, concern over the rise of militant groups  and worries among Arab nations in the region over a potential final nuclear deal with Iran.

All but Oman are members of the Saudi-led coalition that launched airstrikes in Yemen late March against Houthi forces.