France, Saudi seeking to seal billions of euros in deals ‘quickly’ – Fabius

05 May, 2015 6:13 pm

PARIS – France is in talks to agree billions of euros worth of contracts in Saudi Arabia that could be finalised “quickly”, ranging from the defence sector to civil aviation, transport and energy, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday.

Speaking after President Francois Hollande held talks with key ministers of the kingdom’s new cabinet, Fabius said the two countries had set up a joint committee to seal some 20 projects over the coming months.

“It covers 20 projects. If these projects are finalised then that will represent several dozen billions of euros,” he told reporters, adding the first deals should be realised “quickly.”

“We feel there is the desire by the new team to go quickly in its choices.”

Declining to give specific company details, he said talks in the defence sector were at an advanced stage confirming that some of those deals focussed on the naval sector.

“A certain number (of armament) projects need to be finalised and we should see the consequences of that in the coming months,” he said.

Hollande was in Riyadh, his fourth visit since becoming president, at the invitation of Saudi Arabia to attend a Gulf leaders summit. Over the last three years it has been nurturing its links with Gulf states diplomatically and it is beginning to see commercial rewards.

France on Monday signed a $7 billion contract with Qatar for Rafale fighter jets and has already won about $15 billion of defence contracts in the region over the last year.

Fabius said other sectors included energy for which Total is interested in a solar energy deal, and a feasibility study for nuclear power.

Talks were also held with the chief executive of Saudi Arabian Airlines on Tuesday with the prospect of a new order for plane supplier Airbus, Fabius said, adding that rail infrastructure negotiations for Jeddah and the Holy cities of Mecca and Medina were also in the works.

“Things accelerated during this visit. These are extremely important projects. Our partnership is moving up a gear,” Fabius said, adding that he was chairing a steering committee with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam to oversee the contracts. – Reuters

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