The United Arab Emirates and France agreed to buy 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 military helicopters in a historic deal that is likely to strengthen ties between the two allies. In Abu Dhabi on Friday, President Emmanuel Macron and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan completed the 17 billion euro ($19.2 billion) deal. It took more than a decade to finalize the enormous purchase, which is Paris’ greatest overseas arms sale to date. It comes as France seeks to strengthen its defense industry and expand its Middle Eastern influence. “This French commitment to the region, this active cooperation in the fight against terrorism, the clear positions we have taken mean that we have increased our proximity to the UAE,” Macron said today, according to Reuters.
“At a time when they were surely pondering more questions concerning previous historical relationships… “I believe this enhances France’s position,” he remarked, presumably referring to the US, which is still negotiating with the UAE over the F-35. The contract is “essential for our economy because the planes are built in France,” French President Emmanuel Macron said to reporters in Abu Dhabi on Friday. The sale comes after the US urged Australia’s government not to go ahead with a $66 billion deal for 12 French submarines. France is a major defense supplier to the UAE. The Emirates, which first purchased French-made Mirage 2000 planes in the early 1980s, has a naval station in Paris. According to the firm, the agreement includes 80 modified F4 variants of the Dassault-built Rafale warplane.