French defense minister talks deals in Saudi Arabia

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French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian held talks on Monday with Saudi officials focused on cooperation in defense and armaments, SPA state news agency said.

Le Drian discussed with his counterpart, Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who is also the crown prince, “ways to strengthen bilateral relations,” SPA said.

France is negotiating large defense contracts with the oil-rich kingdom.

Le Drian said the Saudi side confirmed to him that a 1.1-billion-euro ($1.49 billion) contract to overhaul four frigates and two refueling ships, in service since the 1980s, had “entered into effect on October 7.”

The work would involve French weapons and systems makers, DCNS, Thales and MBDA, he said in a statement.

Discussions are meanwhile ongoing regarding another contract that could amount to two billion euros ($2.72 billion) for modernizing Saudi air defenses.

It would involve supplying Saudi Arabia with new generation Crotale surface-to-air rockets, produced by Thales.

Le Drian is on his third visit to Saudi Arabia since May last year.

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