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1ST LEAD France, Qatar sign deals worth 12 billion euros during Macron visit By Pol O Gradaigh and Nehal El-Sherif, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Cairo/Paris (dpa) - Qatar and France signed deals worth 12 billion euros (14.1 billion dollars) on Thursday, as French President Emmanuel Macron visited the small kingdom amid a months-long dispute between Doha and its Gulf neighbours.

The one-day visit aims at discussing the Gulf dispute as well as counter-terrorism efforts.

"In total what was signed today adds up to about 12 billion euros, reflecting the intensity of this relationship," Macron told a joint press conference in Doha with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

"We have also signed a number of commercial contracts which reflect the density of our economic ties," Macron said, citing contracts relating to defence, armaments, the operation and maintenance of a metro and tramway, and soil pollution treatment.

French newspaper Le Monde reported that Qatar was taking up an existing option to buy 12 French Rafale fighter jets and had confirmed a 2011 order for 50 Airbus jets.

French railway operator SNCF and Paris public transport company RATP also won a 3-billion-euro contract to operate and maintain a new metro and tramway system for Doha and the new city of Lusail, according to Le Monde.

The talks between the two countries are aimed at strengthening the partnership ahead of a counter-terrorism conference, planned to be held in Paris in April 2018.

Before meeting Tamim, Macron visited the al-Udaid air base, where both France and the United States have soldiers. Macron said al-Udaid is a vital base for the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

Macron said the continuing defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria meant that the funding of terrorist groups was likely to shift from natural resources, such as oil, to new methods. He said his country is sharing lists of organizations, which Paris believes are linked to terrorism, with other countries.

"We ask for very clear commitments not to finance them, and we give them the means to verify them together," he said.

Macron‘s visit to Doha comes a few days after a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Kuwait, where several leaders skipped the meeting amid a dispute between member state Qatar and a Saudi-led bloc.

In June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and regional ally Egypt severed diplomatic, trade and transportation links with Qatar, accusing it of sponsoring terrorists, a charge Doha has denied.

Macron said he hoped the summit is "a promising sign of reconciliation" between members of the Gulf bloc.

"As I have said since the beginning of the crisis, restoring stability in the Gulf is a priority for us too, because we have many friends here. That is why I repeated to dear Tamim that France supports Kuwait‘s mediation effort," he added.

Besides Kuwait, several Western officials have visited the region since June in a bid to mediate a reconciliation, but there has been no breakthrough.

"We are committed to combatting terrorism with all of our friends," the Qatari ruler said.

"We are ready to solve the dispute," Tamim said, adding this would only be possible through dialogue.

The anti-Qatar alliance has demanded that Doha downgrade ties with Iran, a regional rival of Saudi Arabia. Qatar has rejected the demand, calling it an "infringement of its sovereignty."

The row is one of the most serious experienced by the GCC since it was created in 1981.


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