France still looking for Rafale buyers in GCC
PARIS - Qatar and Kuwait are interested in buying French Rafale fighter jets but are waiting to see whether the United Arab Emirates will make a purchase first, France's defence minister said Monday.
"They are in effect interested but they won't know for sure until the first one jumps in," minister Gerard Longuet said.
He said he hoped the UAE, which is talks with France to buy 60 Rafales, would make a decision "within a timeframe that will allow its two neighbours, which hope to be interoperable with the Emirates, to make decisions".
Industry experts have estimated that Kuwait needs 18-22 new fighter jets and that Qatar needs 24.
After opening talks on the purchase in 2008, the UAE said in November that the offer for Rafales from France's Dassault Aviation was uncompetitive and opened up the tender to competition.
France has raised concerns over the future of the Rafale programme, which has struggled to find foreign buyers to support a project that has so far cost more than 40 billion euros ($51 billion).
Longuet warned in December that production on the multi-role fighter could halt if it remains unable to sell any abroad.