French FM Laurent Fabius (R) with Saudi Defence Minister Prince Mohamed
Paris - Arab Today
France said Wednesday it will launch a feasibility study into building two nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia as the two countries announced deals worth $12 billion (10.7 billion euros).
The deals were announced following the first Franco-Saudi Joint Commission meeting in Paris, led by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Saudi Defence Minister Prince Mohamed bin Salman.
Airbus will sell 23 H145 multipurpose helicopters to Saudi Arabia for 500 million euros and Saudi Arabian Airlines is buying 50 Airbus passenger jets worth about $8 billion -- a deal first announced at last week's Paris Air Show.
The reactor study has added significance given efforts by Saudi Arabia's Middle East rival Iran to develop its own nuclear capabilities.
France has been reinforcing links with the conservative kingdom despite persistent criticism of its human rights record, while Riyadh is keen to broaden its ties with Western powers beyond its traditional alliance with the United States.
Salman was due to meet French President Francois Hollande later on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia has been under international pressure, including from Washington and Paris, to drop a sentence of 1,000 lashes for a renowned human rights activist and blogger.
The kingdom has also faced criticism over its use of the death penalty. According to an AFP count, Saudi Arabia executed 102 locals and foreigners in the year to mid-June, compared with 87 during the whole of 2014.