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UAE Signs ‘historic’ Deal to Buy 80 French-made Rafale Fighter Jets

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The United Arab Emirates has signed a deal for 80 French-made Rafale fighter jets, the biggest international order ever made for the warplanes, officials said on Friday during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.

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The UAE, one of the French defence industry’s biggest customers, also agreed to buy 12 Caracal military transport helicopters, the French presidency said in a statement.

“This is an outcome of the strategic partnership between the two countries, consolidating their capacity to act together for their autonomy and security,” the statement said.

France said the deal for the jets and helicopters is worth around EUR17 billion.

‘Growing suspicion in Gulf that US turning away from Middle East’

French Defence Minister Florence Parly called the deal ‘historic’ in a tweet and said it contributed ‘directly to regional stability’.

The Rafale order is the biggest made internationally for the aircraft since it entered into service in 2004.

The agreement was signed by Dassault Aviation director general Eric Trappier as Macron held talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on the first day of a visit to the Gulf.

By snapping up the Rafales, built by Dassault, the UAE is following the lead of Gulf rival Qatar, which has bought 36 of the planes, and Egypt which ordered 24 in 2015 and 30 earlier this year.

Dassault shares rose 6 percent on the announcement.

On-off negotiations

The F4 model planes, which are still undergoing a EUR2-billion development programme scheduled to be completed in 2024, will be delivered from 2027.

The on-off negotiations for the Rafale fighter jets have been going on for more than a decade with Abu Dhabi publicly rebuffing France’s offer to supply 60 planes in 2011 as “uncompetitive and unworkable”.

The Rafale has since made a breakthrough on the international market despite competition from US and other European manufacturers. It now has six foreign clients including Qatar, India, Egypt, Greece and Croatia.

The UAE was already the fifth biggest customer for the French defence industry at EUR4.7 billion from 2011-2020, according to a parliamentary report.

Paris has a permanent military base in the Emirati capital.

Defence sources say the Rafale would replace the Mirage fleet and is unlikely to displace the American F-35 as the UAE continues to hedge its security with two major suppliers, France and the United States.

Macron’s visit to the UAE is part of a two-day trip to the Gulf that includes stops in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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Original Article: france24.com

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World at ‘inflection Point’ Warns Biden, Raising Alarm at Democracy Summit

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Democracy faces “sustained and alarming challenges” worldwide, US President Joe Biden said Thursday at the opening of a virtual summit on democracy with representatives from some 100 countries.

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Biden said trends were “largely pointing in the wrong direction” and that democracy needed “champions.”

“We stand at an inflection point,” he said. “Will we allow the backward slide of rights and democracy to continue unchecked?”

The two-day event, held by video link due to the coronavirus pandemic, was billed by the White House as US leadership in an existential struggle between democracies and powerful autocracies or dictatorships.

“Make no mistake, we’re at a moment of democratic reckoning,” said Uzra Zeya, the US under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights. “Countries in virtually every region of the world have experienced degrees of democratic backsliding.”

The summit featured opening remarks from Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with representatives from some 100 governments, as well as NGOs, private businesses, philanthropical organisations and legislatures attending.

China, Russia not invited

The conference is a test of Biden’s assertion, made in his first foreign policy address in February, that he would return the US to global leadership to face down authoritarian forces led by China and Russia.

Both countries were not invited to this week’s event, which coincides with questions about the strength of America’s democracy. Biden is struggling to pass his agenda through a polarised Congress following the turbulent and disruptive Trump presidency.

Amid rising US-China tensions, the Biden administration’s decision to invite Taiwan has irked Beijing.

China considers Taiwan, a democratically ruled island, part of its territory.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said the invitation of Taiwan showed the US was only using democracy as “cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests.”

‘Lip service’

Washington used the run-up to the summit to announce sanctions against officials in Iran, Syria and Uganda it accuses of oppressing their populations, and against people it accuses of being tied to corruption and criminal gangs in Kosovo and Central America.

US officials hope to win support during the meetings for global initiatives, such as use of technology to enhance privacy or circumvent censorship, and for countries to make specific public commitments to improve their democracies before an in-person summit planned for late 2022.

Annie Boyajian, director of advocacy at non-profit Freedom House, said the event had the potential to push struggling democracies to do better and to spur coordination between democratic governments.

“But, a full assessment won’t be possible until we know what commitments there are and how they are implemented in the year ahead,” Boyajian said.

Zeya at the State Department said civil society would help hold the countries, including the United States, accountable. Zeya declined to say whether Washington would disinvite leaders who did not fulfill their pledges.

Human Rights Watch’s Washington director Sarah Holewinski said making the invitation to the 2022 summit dependent on delivering on commitments was the only way to get nations to step up.

Otherwise, Holewinski said, some “will only pay lip service to human rights and make commitments they never intend to keep.”

“They shouldn’t get invited back,” she said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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Original Source: france24.com

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Top US Scientist Fauci: Omicron ‘almost Certainly Not More Severe’ Than Delta Variant

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Top US scientist Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that while it would take weeks to judge the severity of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, early indications suggested it was not worse than prior strains, and possibly milder.Read More

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Suspected Member of Khashoggi Hit Squad Arrested at Paris Airport

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French police Tuesday arrested at Paris’s main airport a suspected member of the team that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, sources said.Read More

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