France announced on Tuesday that it signed a series of deals worth 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) with Saudi Arabia during a visit by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Saudi capital, Riyadh, strengthening growing ties between the two countries.
The deals covered accords, contracts and letters of intent between the two countries, whose economic and political relations have been deepening on the issues of aerospace and military contracts for Airbus, transport, energy, health and food markets with French companies.
Among the agreements, one of them was a Saudi order for 30 patrol boats.
“About 30 patrol boats should be ordered before the end of the year,” said the Prime Minister’s office.
Valls declared the deals on Twitter saying that they showed his government was "mobilised for our companies and employment."
France-Arabie Saoudite : 10 milliards € de contrats ! Le Gouvernement mobilisé pour nos entreprises et l'emploi. MV pic.twitter.com/T7anHumCW3
— Manuel Valls (@manuelvalls) 13 Ekim 2015
A French official who requested anonymity said that a military helicopter deal was also expected to be signed in Riyadh.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defense Minister Jean Yves Le Drian was also in Ryadh along with Valls. After they had arrived on Monday, they held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Riyadh.
Valls opened the Saudi-French Business Opportunities Forum to reinforce commercial ties between companies of the two countries on Monday night. Almost 200 French companies attended the forum in an attempt to sign contracts with Saudi Arabia.
“France is now the third largest investor in Saudi Arabia and there are opportunities for development for Saudi companies in France,” Valls said.
Valls expected additional deals to be finalised saying that “we don't doubt for one instance that these letters of intent will be confirmed."
The alliance between France and Saudi Arabia has been growing in recent years. For Saudi Arabia, growing ties with France is an effort to make alliances beyond its defense partner the United States and to withstand Riyadh’s regional rival Iran.
Valls started his regional tour of Middle Eastern countries on Saturday in Cairo and signed a deal with Egypt to sell two Mistral helicoper carriers originally ordered by Russia.
According to French government sources, Egypt will pay about 950 million euros for the helicopters.
In January, French President Francois Hollande visited Riyadh to pay his respects after the death of King Abdullah and in May, returned to become the first Western leader to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council summit.