UAE agrees to buy French warplanes

Nice (France): France says the United Arab Emirates has purchased 80 French-made Rafale warplanes for 16 billion euros.

There was no immediate confirmation of the deal from Emirati officials.

The French Defense Ministry described the deal as France's largest-ever weapons contract for export. French President Emmanuel Macron is in the Emirates on the first stop of his two-day visit to the Gulf.

Macron's two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia comes a month before France assumes the rotating European Union presidency and ahead of the French 2022 presidential election where Macron is expected to seek a second term.

Returning from the Gulf with a contract to sell French fighter jets to the Emiratis, a deal that Paris and Abu Dhabi have discussed for almost a decade, would boost France's defense industry after the collapse of a 66 billion contract for Australia to buy 12 French submarines. And the red carpet treatment Macron can expect from Gulf political heavyweights would present France as the EU powerhouse in the Gulf and Middle East since Britain's exit from the bloc. Macron stands out among European Union leaders with his willingness to be in the spotlight, to drive the foreign policy and push things ahead, said Silvia Colombo, an expert on EU-Gulf relations at the International Affairs Institute in Rome.

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