UAE continues talks with UK on Eurofighter jet sales

Senior UK officials are in the UAE seeking to close the sales deal of Eurofighter Typhoon jets to the Emirate's military.

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Talks on the sale of Eurofighter Typhoon jets to the UAE are continuing, the UK's trade and investment minister said yesterday.

British trade and investment minister Lord Stephen Green is accompanying UK prime minister, David Cameron, on visits to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which include trying to close the sale of fighter jets to the military of the two countries.

Asked how talks were progressing between the UK and UAE, Lord Green said: "There are close and ongoing [talks]."

He said the talks formed part of the UK's goal to bolster trade and commercial ties across several different sectors including energy, financial services, life sciences, education and construction.

"That [Eurofighter deal] is an important opportunity and clearly we want to focus on that," Lord Green said.

"But also, there's a deeper programme of support for the UAE, which is about engaging and supporting the UAE economy."

Eurofighter, a consortium of the UK's BAE Systems along with manufacturers in Italy, Germany and France, is vying with the French defence company Dassault to supply 60 aircraft to the UAE.

The plane is widely considered a credible option for the UAE airforce, but issues of inter-operability between various defence suppliers remain a central consideration.

If the sale comes off, UK officials say the deal would be worth more than £6 billion (Dh35.21bn) to UK companies, with benefits to other companies in the supply chain.

In a sign of the importance of the deal, Mr Cameron joined senior UAE military and political figures inspecting Typhoons at Al Minhad airbase.

Among other contenders for the deal are Dassault of France with its Rafale jets, and the US giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin with their F15, F16 and F18 variants.

Saudi Arabia's air force ordered 72 Typhoon aircraft in 2006, and Oman is in talks with BAE for 12 of the jets.

Lord Green said the UK and the UAE were on track to reach a target of raising trade between the two countries by 60 per cent from 2009 levels to £12bn by 2015.

Bilateral trade in the year to date had reached £9.6bn but the rise was likely to fall short of last year's annual growth of 22 per cent, he said.

"This year will be less than that because what we have seen everywhere globally is a slowdown in trade this year," Lord Green said.

He was speaking on the same day the energy company Shell signed a deal with Dubai company Al Thani for hydrocarbon development.

Lord Green said it was up to the UAE whether it changed its mind on excluding BP from an invitation to pre-qualify for the country's largest onshore concessions.

Bob Dudley, BP chief executive, was among those in the visiting UK business delegation.

"BP has been a part of the scene here for longer than any of us have been alive and clearly they are keen on continuing," Lord Green said.