Kuwait says it wants Rafale jets, awaiting terms


“Obviously we would be proud to have the Rafale in the heart of our armed forces in Kuwait,” Sheikh Jaber told reporters after a meeting with his French counterpart Herve Morin in the French capital. “We hope to see the terms for this soon.”

The Rafale, Dassault Aviation’s newest multirole combat aircraft, has been a flagship programme for France’s arms industry but is still seeking export buyers, despite major efforts by French authorities.

“It is true that we hope to have the Rafale in our air force,” Sheikh Jaber said, adding that Kuwait was also interested in other items of French military hardware, from helicopters to naval systems.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in February talks over a possible sale of 14-28 Rafale jets to Kuwait were “quite advanced” and expressed hopes of sealing a deal before the end of the year.

Morin said that technical groups would meet as soon as possible to finalise the terms of the deal.

Detailed negotiations over the possible sale of 60 Rafale aircraft are also under way with the United Arab Emirates.

As well as the financial implications of any deal with Kuwait, French officials hope that an initial export order for the Rafale could encourage other countries to follow.

The aircraft is currently only in service with the French military and faces stiff competition from U.S. rivals Lockheed Martin and Boeing as well as the European Eurofighter aircraft.

Wednesday’s comments came as the French and Kuwaiti ministers signed a broader accord over defence cooperation, building on the considerable energy Sarkozy has devoted towards boosting France’s presence in the Gulf.

“France has decided to regain its place and to play a full role to secure the stability and security of this strategic region,” Morin said.

He said France was capable of offering countries in the region an alternative to their traditional reliance on the United States.

“Countries in the Gulf know that they can find in France a second partner, one which is a friend of the Americans but which has its own vision of security and stability,” he said.


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