France and Qatar have reached a deal over the sale of 24 Rafale fighter jets.
The agreement, worth some 6.3 billion euros, is the third of its kind for Dassault Aviation after deals to sell Rafale’s to Egypt and India.
The contract was signed by France’s President Francois Hollande and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. The deal also includes MBDA missiles and the training of Qatari pilots, technicians and intelligence officers by the French army.
“If we are present here in Qatar and the region it is because France is considered a reliable country which a partner country can trust,” said Hollande, adding that French “credibility” in the region helped with Rafale sales.
France’s Rafale jet has been losing out since the turn of the century to American rivals and to the part-British “Eurofighter” or Typhoon. French officials, however, say the Middle East sales reflect an unwillingness by Arab countries to become too dependent on US weaponry.
The accord coincides with the announcement that Qatar Airlines will have a number of new slots in France to fly to and from. That news has been criticised by Air France which says Gulf based firms enjoy “colossal subventions” and therefore do not need the government’s help in an already crowded and competitive market.