thirteen years of negotiations for a record contract

“In Europe, you have the watch, on our side we have the time. “ This saying often heard in the Middle East takes on its full meaning today, since it took thirteen years of negotiations to lead, Friday, December 3, to the sale of 80 Rafale fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, for a sum which is expected to reach 17 billion euros for the entire contract. It was signed in Dubai by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Ben Zayed. The sale of twelve Caracal helicopters manufactured by the Airbus group has also been concluded. “This is a major achievement of the strategic partnership between the two countries”, welcomed the French presidency in a press release.

The signing of these contracts came on the first day of an express visit by the French president to the Gulf. He was scheduled to fly to Doha (Qatar) on Friday afternoon, then meet the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Ben Salman, on Saturday in Jeddah. At each stage of this trip, the aim is in particular to deepen cooperation in the fight against terrorism, to talk about regional stability and to expand economic exchanges. The visit is severely criticized by many human rights associations.

The announcement of an order for 80 Rafale is the largest recorded by the French manufacturer Dassault Aviation, whose combat aircraft is now sold in six countries. The CEO of the company, Eric Trappier, had made the trip hoping to finally complete the process. These thousands of hours of discussion, punctuated by ups and downs, were followed closely by three successive Presidents of the Republic – Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron -, because the sale of combat aircraft is before all a political matter.

Read also European combat aircraft: agreement between France, Germany and Spain

It all started in the summer of 2007. As soon as he arrived at the Elysee Palace, Nicolas Sarkozy intends to put an end to the curse that hangs over the Rafale since the beginning of the 2000s, since these devices have never been sold for export. . The tenders in South Korea, the Netherlands and Singapore were systematically won by the Americans, while the French plane is considered technically better. To justify these setbacks in areas under the influence of the United States, the aircraft manufacturer calls on Chinese wisdom by recalling that “The bamboo always leans on the side of the one who pushes the strongest”.

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