French President Emmanuel Macron met on Friday with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, as the start of his Gulf tour.
In the first stop of Macron's two-day tour, France has sold 80 Rafale fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for $18.08 billion (€16 billion).
This arms deal is the largest international arms sale in the history of France.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly expressed on her official Twitter account her joy at the signing of the contract.
"80 Rafales. Signing of a historic contract with the United Arab Emirates. Proud to see French industrial excellence at the top."
"I don't want to reveal the Christmas present," said before the meeting, Anwar Gargash, UAE presidential advisor.
"A strategic partnership stronger than ever," communicated the French Presidency, referring also to the sale of 12 Caracal military helicopters, manufactured by the Airbus group.
It is worth noting that this is the largest deal ever witnessed by Dassault, the French aircraft manufacturer, which manufactures an average of at least 11 aircraft per year to make its industrial chain profitable, and has managed to sell its Rafale to Egypt, India, Qatar and the UAE, among other countries, which could double or even triple its manufacturing average.
Furthermore, the French government assured that this sale will bring 7,000 jobs in the country, as all Rafale will be manufactured in France.
From 2027, the 80 Rafale are expected to be ready for delivery, with all aircraft to be delivered by 2031.
The French Ministry of Defense communicated on official social networks that the 80 Rafale will be in the "F4" format, the newest and most sophisticated model.
"Historic contract for the acquisition of 80 #Rafale aircraft of F4 standard by the United Arab Emirates," the French group Dassault communicated on its official Twitter.
Following the announcement, the shares of the same group soared by almost 9%.
The signing of this agreement took place during the first day of Macron's visit to the United Arab Emirates, as the start of his Gulf tour.
Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to continue that route by flying to his next destination, Qatar, on Friday afternoon to meet on Saturday with Mohamed bin Salman, Prince of Saudi Arabia.
The French president aims to develop cooperation between the different countries in the fight against terrorism, discuss Lebanon's economic and political crisis situation, and increase their economic collaboration.
In addition, it is worth noting that Macron's visit comes at a time when the Gulf countries are seeking to strengthen their ties with their partners.
Since 2017, when Emmanuel Macron assumed the French presidency, he has forged a great relationship with Mohamed bin Zayed, which has been reflected by continued investments between the two countries.
The UAE, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, is expected to order a larger number of Rafale aircraft to replace its Mirage 2000.
The UAE has become France's fifth-largest defense industry customer, with €4.7 billion between 2011 and 2020, according to a parliamentary report.
Alongside Macron, he is accompanied by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Defense Minister Florence Parly.
Also, this contract comes just before the French presidential elections, which are held in April 2022, and which could benefit the current president, especially after the cancellation of the "contract of the century" by Australia, which would have involved the purchase of French submarines worth more than 60 billion euros, to be replaced by the AUKUS Agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom.