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Saudi Arabia and France sign defence deal to boost kingdom's navy

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24, 2018.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court
3 min

Saudi Arabia's state arms producer and a French government-majority firm signed an agreement Sunday on a joint venture to boost the kingdom's navy, amid calls to halt weapons sales to Riyadh over it role in Yemen. 

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The memorandum of understanding between Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) and France's Naval Group will aim to provide the Gulf state's navy with "state-of-the-art systems". The deal was announced at the International Defence Exhibition, Idex 2019 which got underway on Sunday in Abu Dhabi.

Saudi Arabia will manufacture warships, frigates and submarines as part of the agreement signed with Naval Group, Dr Andreas Schwer, the chief executive officer of Sami said during a press conference on the sidelines of Idex.

"Through design, construction, and maintenance activities, the joint venture will contribute significantly to further enhancing the capabilities and readiness of our Royal Saudi Naval Forces," Schwer said.

A spokeswoman for Naval Group, which is owned by the French state and French multinational giant Thales, refused to give any more details.

This deal, and another one signed with the UAE based Mubadala Investment Company were announced on the sidelines of International Defence Exhibition, Idex 2019 that got underway on Sunday.

France's support of Riyadh in Yemen war

French lawmakers and rights groups have repeatedly called on France's government to suspend all arms deals to Riyadh because of the war, where some 10,000 people have been killed since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015.

Riyadh is battling on the side of the internationally recognised government against Iran-aligned Huthi rebels, in a conflict that has seen all sides accused of potential war crimes.

France, one of the world's biggest arms exporters, has sold equipment to Riyadh and fellow coalition member the UAE, notably Caesar artillery guns and ammunition, sniper rifles and armoured vehicles.

New contracts and allies

In a separate development, Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as "MBS" will arrive in Pakistan on Sunday, at the start of an Asian tour.

The visit to Islamabad will apparently coincide with possible new talks between the Taliban and the United States on Afghanistan.

Arabia and Pakistan are both involved in a months-long push led by Washington aimed at ending the conflict in Afghanistan.

After Pakistan, MBS will travel to India, where he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He is expected to finish the trip with a visit to China on Thursday and Friday.

(with AFP)

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