PARIS, Oct 21, (Agencies): Kuwait signed 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 bn) worth of military fixed and provisional deals led by the purchase of 24 Airbus-built Caracal helicopters, the French government said Wednesday. Paris said Kuwait would purchase 24 helicopters for a billion euros with an option for a further six. The Caracal, which is deployed on combat rescue missions and long-distance troop transport, is fitted out with radar missile protection, while its weaponry includes air-to-ground and air-to-sea missiles. The agreements came a month after Kuwait agreed to buy 28 Typhoon combat warplanes from the Eurofighter consortium.
Kuwait is looking to upgrade its firepower amid increased security concerns in the region linked to the rise of the jihadist Islamic State group. Further deals included provision of French light armoured vehicles and patrol boat maintenance. A source familiar with the negotiations indicated that the patrol boats would include the revamping of eight P37 craft that France sold to Kuwait after Iraq’s 1990 invasion that sparked the first Gulf War in 1991. After the conflict the two countries signed a defence agreement and today Kuwaiti’s military hierarchy is largely French-trained.
The French defence ministry has yet to confirm whether Paris will ultimately also supply new vessels. Wednesday’s accords were signed by a slew of ministers including French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Finance Minister Emmanuel Macron in the presence of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Jaber Al- Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. Kuwait also indicated readiness to create a 450 million euro fund to invest in French small and medium-sized technology and health firms, a French government source said, in cooperation with BPIFrance, a public sector body dedicated to investment. France said it will meanwhile build a 100 million euro oncology centre in Kuwait.
Meanwhile, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al- Hamad Al-Sabah held official talks with his French counterpart Manuel Valls on Wednesday. During the talks, which were held in a friendly atmosphere that reflected deep historic relations between both sides, the two premiers discussed existing cooperation and ways of bolstering and cementing it in various fields, mainly in economic, investment, military, cultural and scientific realms.
They also addressed the latest Middle East situation, primarily security and stability, and the French role in maintaining regional security. Both sides also exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest and the two countries’ positions as well as joint cooperation over the fight against terrorism. The talks were attended by First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Sheikh Khaled Al-Jarrah Al- Sabah, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh and Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah. The French ministers of foreign affairs, defense, economic and industry and several other senior officials were present in the talks. The French prime minister then held a luncheon banquet in honor of His Highness the Prime Minister and his accompanying delegation. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh stressed the importance of benefiting from French expertise in all fields, especially health, industry and power, to offer the best services to the Kuwaiti public. The minister made this remark to KUNA, on Wednesday, after a meeting comprised of Kuwaiti delegation from the private sector and a number of businessmen and members of MEDEF International. MEDEF International is the most representative organization of the French private sector at the international level. The meeting was also attended by Kuwaiti Ambassador to France Sami Al- Suleiman. The Kuwaiti Minister attended the meeting upon the request of His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah who is currently visiting France. The premier’s visit aims at opening new paths for bilateral cooperation with the French. Member of Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry Osam Al-Nesif told KUNA that this was the second meeting with MEDEF International; the first meeting took place last year when the Finance minister paid a similar visit to France. Meetings with MEDEF International aim at exploring cooperation between the private sectors of Kuwait and France and signing agreements on future Kuwaiti- French projects.
They also discuss signing educational agreements with Sorbonne University and Audencia Nantes School of Management to open their branches in the Gulf country. Meanwhile, Director-General for the Middle East at France’s Business Federation (MEDEF), Jean-Louis Chaussade, said on Wednesday that French companies were eager to get an acceleration and progress in business ties with Kuwait and he revealed that MEDEF was proposing another visit by businessmen to the country next year. In an exclusive interview with KUNA, on the sidelines of a meeting between officials and businessmen from both nations, Chaussade recalled “the very long-standing links” between the Kuwaiti and French business sectors. “This is not the first time we are meeting. At the beginning of this year there already was a delegation here from Kuwait, led by the Kuwaiti Finance Minister,” he remarked. “The links between the business communities of France and Kuwait are already very old and what we are seeking is to develop them,” Chaussade indicated, noting “there are historical ties in the oil (sector) and in certain infrastructure areas.” “We are now looking for new business,” he affirmed
Kuwait and France on Wednesday agreed on beefing up bilateral cooperation to help boost world security and stability. A joint statement at the conclusion of His Highness the Premier Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah’s threeday visit to France pointed out that the two countries would continue cooperation to counter terror groups and extremists worldwide, especially the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The two countries also underlined the need for exerting more efforts to find political solutions to the crises in Syria, Libya and Yemen.
The statement also lauded Kuwait and France’s contributions to meet the humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees. On Iran’s nuclear deal with the West, the two sides urged Iran to abide by the deal provisions to help open a new chapter in relations with the international community. With regard to the Palestinian cause, Kuwait and France called for a quick resumption of the stalled peace process and urged an immediate halt for violence in the occupied Palestinian territories.
On bilateral relations, the statement welcomed the signing of a number of agreements, memorandums of understanding and declarations of intent to bolster bilateral cooperation in different domains during the His Highness the Premier’s visit to Paris.
On the political domain, the two sides agreed on cooperation and coordination to support their candidates in international organizations. Kuwait also thanked France for backing its request for Schengen visa exemption. The statement noted that the talks between His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak and his French counterpart Manuel Valls have showed almost identical views of various issues of common interest and the depth of the relations between the two countries. His Highness Sheikh Jaber has also handed Premier Valls a letter from His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jabe Al-Sabah to French President Francois Hollande, including an invitation to visit Kuwait for further talks on bilateral relations.
The statement welcomed the declaration of intent between Kuwaiti financial institutions and the BPIFrance to invest 450 million euros in financial funds, as well as the start of negotiation between Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) and the French Caisse des Depots et Consignations (CDC) or the Deposits and Consignments Fund to invest one billion euros. It expressed satisfaction about the KIA investments in France, estimated at 10 billion euros. The two sides lauded the agreement on increasing Kuwaiti and French joint ventures and the French investments in Kuwait. They signed an agreement on enhancing cultural and educational cooperation. On healthcare, the statement noted that both sides have agreed on setting up joint cancer treatment center and to increase the number of Kuwait physicians receiving medical training at French medical institutions. They also hammered a pact involving the French institute for archeology and social sciences and another of a technical nature dealing with the purchase of military aircrafts. They signed declarations of intent on availing Radio France International the right to broadcast its programs on Kuwaiti airwaves, on cooperation between French and Kuwaiti financial institutes, and on cooperation between the Kuwait National Guard and its French counterpart.