RIYADH --- French Prime Minister Manuel Valls trumpeted 10 billion euros ($11 billion) worth of contracts with Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, although few had actually been finalised as he concluded a visit to the kingdom. (.../…)
"10 billion euros of contracts," Valls, who was leaving the Middle East after a four-day trip, said on his Twitter feed. "The government is mobilised for our companies and our jobs." (…/…)
But behind the initial euphoria, the document agreed between France and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday suggested that little had been sealed.
Among the potential deals in the document, the kingdom is expected to order 30 military patrol boats by year-end. An announcement of that plan was already made in June, and had been due to be concluded this month.
Saudi Arabia has also entered exclusive negotiations to buy spy satellite and telecommunications equipment worth "billions of euros" from Thales, the document added. (…/…)
Valls looked to play down the lack of deals. "What's important is the perspective, the movement," he told reporters. "Step by step, we are deepening each time our partnership. We don't doubt for a second that the letter of intention will be finalised." (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR’S NOTE: In addition to a contract for 30 Airbus AS-332C1e utility helicopters, Valls was also widely expected to sign other arms deals which had been leaked in advance of the trip to French media, including Gowind corvettes, satellites and low-level air-defense.
In fact, there has been little progress since June, when the Saudi deputy crown prince and defense minister, Mohammed Ben Salman, visited Paris, and a similar announcement was made of deals worth 12 billion euros that have still not been signed.
As one observer noted “there are a lot of projects, but precious few contracts” as most of these potential projects are only mentioned as “agreements” in the joint final communiqué – even less binding than a letter of intent.
These include the 30 patrol boats and observation and telecommunications satellites, but none of the other expected contracts is even mentioned.
Consequently, Valls’ claim of “€10 billion in contracts” was, at best, intended to mislead.)