French President Emmanuel Macron with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani [Reuters]

France is close to finalising major military and transport contracts during a visit by Emmanuel Macron to Qatar on Thursday, a French presidential source said.

Macron visited Al Udaid’s air base in Qatar on Thursday. 

Qatar has an option to buy 12 more Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets after buying 24 planes in 2015 for about six billion euros ($7.11bn) and officials have said that the deal could be concluded this week.

The Rafale is made by Dassault Aviation. “We’ve been negotiating for months,” defence minister Florence Parly had told BFM TV.

The two sides are also in talks for sale of 300 VBCI armoured vehicles from French firm Nexter and a contract worth some three billion euros to manage the Doha metro for 20 years.

“Discussions are ongoing,” a French presidential source told reporters on Monday ahead of the visit. “You spoke about several dossiers for which the point of maturity is close, but I prefer to remain a little bit prudent and wait until Thursday.”

Paris has pushed further business interests in Qatar as well as encourage investment into France, where Qatar already has assets worth about $10bn.

France has also sought to play a role as a go-between in a row, which began in early June, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut political and trade ties with Qatar.

Since then Qatar has sought to strengthen its military, including signing military equipment deals with the United States, Russia and Britain.

In September, Qatar has signed an agreement to buy 24 Typhoon fighter jets from Britain. 

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a joint project between British defence group BAE Systems, France’s Airbus, and Italy’s Finmeccanica.

SOURCE: Reuters news agency

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