Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi Arabia, France agree major deals on back of Deputy Crown Prince visit
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French President François Hollande (2nd-R) accompanies Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (L) as he leaves the Élysée Palace, in Paris, on June 24, 2015. (AFP Photo/Alain Jocard)

French President François Hollande (2nd-R) accompanies Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (L) as he leaves the Élysée Palace, in Paris, on June 24, 2015. (AFP Photo/Alain Jocard)

Paris and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrived in France for an official visit on Wednesday. Both countries have announced they will sign billions of dollars’ worth of deals in several fields on the back of the visit.

Following his arrival in Paris, Prince Mohammed met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, later also meeting with President François Hollande at the Élysée Palace.

A number of major deals worth a total of 12 billion US dollars have been announced as part of the visit.

Fabius told reporters on Wednesday France would begin a feasibility study to assess building two nuclear reactors in the Kingdom.

France is also set to supply Saudi Arabia with 23 H145 multipurpose Airbus helicopters—usually used for emergency services or border patrols—for around 500 million euros (560 million dollars). Another deal, worth 8 billion dollars, to supply the Kingdom with 50 Airbus passenger jets has also been confirmed.

Saudi–French trade relations have been greatly boosted in recent years. In 2013 bilateral trade jumped 8 percent from the previous year, reaching 9.4 billion dollars.

France’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bertrand Besancenot told Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone that Prince Mohammed’s visit heralded a “new stage in Saudi–French strategic relations.”

“The visit by Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince to Paris these two days is extremely important. This will be the first time France officially welcomes Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to Paris, and [we will] explore a number of issues of joint importance and those relating to the [Middle East] region, especially Yemen, in addition to boosting bilateral cooperation,” Besancenot said.

“It is very important at this time to enrich Saudi–French relations in order to meet the challenges which the Middle East region is facing, in addition to the importance of continuing [to shift] strategic relations between both countries to new and better horizons.”

Additional reporting by Fatah Al-Rahman Youssef.