Saudi Arabia, France sign billions in ship, plane deals

By Jamey Keaten, AP

PARIS — Saudi Arabia signed agreements worth billions of dollars on Wednesday to buy helicopters, Airbus jets and two possible nuclear reactors from France.

The signing in Paris comes as Saudi Arabia is seeking to bolster its military capabilities while it is leading a coalition against extremists in neighboring Yemen. A high-level delegation is in the French capital this week led by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is King Salman’s youngest son and has quickly risen to become one of the most powerful men in the kingdom.

Saudi and French officials signed accords at the presidential Elysee Palace on Wednesday for 23 helicopters for the Saudi Interior Ministry, 50 Airbus jets and a study for two new-generation nuclear reactors, as well as nuclear waste and safety training.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that the two have agreed to sell French patrol boats ��to enhance the capability of the Saudi Coast Guard, which is today facing growing threats.��

The Foreign Ministry said three of the accords were worth more than US$12 billion. It didn’t put a monetary value on the others, which likely involve several billion more.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir also urged more help from the region to help Yemen reconstruct.

��Gulf countries should send their help to Yemen, so that our (Yemeni) brothers could reconstruct their country and find a political solution and sign a (peace) agreement,�� he told reporters. ��I hope that Houthis will return to senses and understand that they might have a role in Yemen, but that it should be done in a peaceful manner.��

French President Francois Hollande presided over Wednesday’s signing, after pushing the deals during a recent visit to Riyadh. France has cultivated ties with Gulf states even as relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have cooled under U.S. President Barack Obama.