France, Qatar Sign Transport Contracts Worth over EU12Bn

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  • Airbus, Dassault all come back from Macron visit with sales
  • Macron visit isolated Gulf state to shore up close ties

France and Qatar signed on Thursday a slew of contracts as President Emmanuel Macron visits the isolated Gulf country to solidify French business interests and Qatar continues to firm up its ties with the West.

France’s Dassault Aviation sold a further 12 Rafale fighter jets; the French national railway company SNCF along with Paris metro company RATP won a contract to run the Doha metro; French state-owned armaments company Nexter sold 490 armored vehicles; and Airbus sold 50 narrow body jets.

“These contracts underline the closeness of our commercial ties,” Macron said during a signing ceremony in Doha. He said the contracts were valued at about 12 billion euros ($14.14 billion).

A Saudi-led embargo of Qatar has ignited a surge in domestic nationalism as Qataris dig in for a long standoff. While shoring up sentiments at home, Qatari officials cemented friendships in the West since June with big-ticket purchases of U.S. military jets, Italian naval ships and now planes from France.

Macron, the most senior Western official to visit Qatar, caps the parade of top diplomats from Europe and the U.S. who called in Doha this year. Few left empty-handed. Turkey and Iran gained market share for foods and construction supplied that used to come through Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. government got a new counter-terrorism pact, and Washington lobbyists gorged on fees from both sides seeking to sway a sometimes split Trump administration.

Mediation Offer

Macron has insisted France won’t take sides in the standoff between Qatar and other Gulf countries, and has offered to mediate.

Thursday’s contracts were signed in Doha in presence of Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani and Macron.

The SNCF’s contract to run the Doha metro, whose first line opens in about a year, is worth 3 billion euros, Macron’s office said. The option to buy 12 more Dassault Rafale jets is worth about 2 billion euros.

Qatar Airways upgraded a 5.5 billion euro contract with Airbus to buy 50 A321 neos with Safran motors, and signed contract to opt for a further 30. Qatar also signed a letter of intent with Nexter to buy 490 armored vehicles that could be worth about 1.5 billion euros.

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