Saudi Arabia’s new leaders hope to move quickly on deals with France worth tens of billions of euros, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday at the start of a visit to Riyadh with President François Hollande for a Gulf leaders’ summit, reports Radio France Internationale.
The visit comes a day after Hollande oversaw the signing of a warplanes deal with Qatar worth 6.3 billion euros.
“We sense the new team’s desire to move quickly,” Fabius said of the Saudi deals during a news conference. “We’re working on 20 projects, which may represent several billion euros,” he said.
Fabius said the agreements could include new contracts for French oil company Total, weapons and naval equipment, transportation and the solar and nuclear energy industries.
"These are extremely important prospects that show that the partnership is moving at a new speed with some concrete results," the minister said.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia ascended to the throne in January and shuffled his court last month. His son, defence minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman — now second-in-line to rule — is negotiating the deals with France.
Hollande is the first Western leader to attend a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is made up of Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.
The visit comes amid the Saudi-led coalition's bombing of rebels in Yemen. All GCC states but Oman are members of the coalition.
France has voiced its support of the campaign against the Shiite Houthis rebels who overran the capital Sanaa in September. Riyadh’s Sunni regime fears the rebels will take over the entire country.