French President Emmanuel Macron sealed multi-billion dollar military and transport contracts in Qatar on Thursday, including the sale of Rafale fighter jets and hundreds of armoured vehicles, amid mounting tensions in the Middle East.
Macron is in Doha for talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on combatting the financing of terrorism at a time the Middle East is locked in a regional power struggle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran.
Qatar agreed to firm up an option from 2015 to buy 12 more Dassault Aviation-made Rafale fighters, and said it could purchase a further 36. It had already bought 24 planes for about 6 billion euros ($7.11 billion), including missiles.
Thursday’s deals also saw Doha commit to buying 490 armoured vehicles from defence firm Nexter, sending a signal to its neighbours after Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut political and trade with Doha in June. They accuse it of supporting terrorism, a charge Qatar denies.
Qatar also said it would buy 50 Airbus a321neo planes with an option for a further 30 and awarded a French rail consortium, comprised of RATP and SNCF, the contract to build and operate the metro system in the Qatari capital of Doha in a deal estimated at 3 billion euros.
Paris has close commercial and political ties with Qatar and has pushed deeper business interests in the country as well as encouraged Qatari investment in France, where the gas-rich Gulf state already has assets of about $10 billion.
Qatar has drawn closer to Iran and sought to strengthen its military as relations with its neighbours have deteriorated, and signed military equipment deals with the United States, Russia and Britain.