November 30, 2017 / 8:41 AM / a year ago

French defence minister hopeful for fighter jets, armoured vehicle sale to Qatar

French Defense Minister Florence Parly attends a ceremony to mark the 206th anniversary of Paris Fire Brigade at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, France, September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - France is hoping to strike deals to sell 12 Rafale fighter jets and armoured vehicles to Qatar when President Emmanuel Macron visits the country in December, the French defence minister said on Thursday.

Qatar has been strengthening its military since its ties with other Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have deteriorated.

France, which has carefully avoided taking sides in that dispute, is hoping to capitalise on a recent arms export surge which included the sale of 24 Rafale jets to Doha in 2015. The Rafale is made by Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA).

“We’ve been negotiating for months,” defence minister Florence Parly told BFM TV.

“We’ve also been negotiating for months about the sale of a large number of armoured vehicles and we hope it will be concluded when the president goes to Qatar at the beginning of December,” she added.

French media have said France’s Nexter was in talks to sell about 300 VBCI armoured vehicles to Qatar.

However, a French government source told Reuters nothing had been agreed yet.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar in June, suspending air and shipping routes with the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

Reporting by Michel Rose, Simon Carraud and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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