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Saudi Arabia, France To Sign Mega Arms Deal: Report

From the Tehran Times:  “Saudi Arabia is planning to sign a mega military contact, worth of nearly €19 billion (about $25 billion) with France, a French newspaper reported on Tuesday.  The daily La Depeche reported that Paris and Riyadh are going to finalize the terms of the huge arms deal in the coming days.
The oil-rich kingdom has been accused of covertly supporting extremist groups. Riyadh’s lavish expenditure on military equipment is also regarded as the primary reason for the arms race in the Middle East.  Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz arrived in France on Monday as part of a visit dominated by issues of military cooperation.

At the beginning of his trip, Salman met French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee in the presence of many French business leaders and arms manufactures. He also held talks with Prime Minister Manuel Valls.  However, the most salient part of the visit will come on Wednesday in which the prince will hold discussions with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on details of the big military contract.

Named crown prince in June 2012 following the death of Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, Salman, now 76, is the half-brother of King Abdullah and also the minister of defense.  The French arms manufacturers expect a lot from the ongoing royal visit. Among the major items of the contract, according to La Depeche, is the signing of a memorandum of understanding (a prelude to an intergovernmental agreement), for the purchase of six FREMM multi-mission frigates manufactured by DCNS which are lavishly equipped with various missiles, 10 helicopters, Airbus, etc.

The contract is estimated at 15 billion euros over a period of about ten years. To ensure this mega contract to function, France will train sailors in Saudi Navy and it will also conduct an extensive program of modernization of the infrastructure of the Red Sea to host and maintain these ultra modern frigates.

In addition to the €15 billion contract for six DCNS FREMM frigates, France could also commission another 4 billion contract to the Thale, a multinational company based in Paris that designs and builds electrical systems and provides services for the aerospace, defense, transportation and security markets. The French company could indeed provide air defense system Mark 3 to the weapon-thirsty Saudis who want to renew their equipment.

The issue of weapons that France could provide to Lebanon as part of an agreement with Riyadh, reportedly in amount of three billion dollars, is expected to be discussed between the two defense authorities.

A list of equipment has already been agreed between the three parties, diplomatic sources have said.

Salman’s final meeting will come on Wednesday in which he will discuss the current regional crises with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The issue of Iraq and the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists as well as the situation in Syria and Lebanon will be the focus of discussion with the top French diplomat.

Royce Christyn
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