* UAE interested in up to 60 Typhoon fighter jets
* Saudi Arabia interested in "substantial" new order
By Mohammed Abbas
LONDON, Nov 5 British Prime Minister David
Cameron will visit the Gulf and Middle East on a three-day
diplomacy and trade trip this week, his office said on Monday,
adding that selling BAE Systems-built fighter jets
would be high on the agenda.
Cameron will visit the United Arab Emirates on Monday, and
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday before travelling to another destination
in the Middle East, in a trip his office said "was to help
Britain compete and thrive in the global race".
The trip is part of a push to improve overseas demand for
British goods and services to help drag Britain's economy into a
period of sustained growth after the global financial crisis.
In the UAE, Cameron will showcase the Typhoon fighter jet to
Emirati ministers, and both Cameron's office and BAE officials
have said the Emiratis have shown an interest in placing an
order for up to 60 of the aircraft.
He will also discuss with UAE officials how to develop a
"strategic air defence relationship", including potential
collaboration on military aerospace equipment.
Cameron's office said Saudi Arabia has also signalled that
they are interested in placing a second "substantial" order of
Typhoon jets, on top of the 72 jets they have already acquired.
Europe's biggest defence contractor, BAE signed a deal for
the 72 aircraft in 2007, 24 of which have been delivered.
Payment terms for the remaining 48 have yet to be finalised and
BAE says profit growth this year hinges on the outcome.
Like other defence firms, BAE faces tough times as
governments reduce defence spending due to economic weakness.
The Eurofighter Typhoon was developed by a consortium
comprising BAE, Airbus parent firm EADS and Italy's
"The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman have all expressed an
interest in purchasing Typhoons and the government is aiming to
secure sales of over 100 aircraft to the region in the coming
year, deals that together would be directly worth over 6 billion
pounds to British firms," Cameron's office said in a statement.
Britain has historic ties with Gulf Arab states, many of
them former British protectorates and regional allies. Areas of
mutual interest include facing down threats from Iran,
counter-terrorism and securing oil supplies.
The Foreign Office says British exports to the region are
worth 17 billion pounds ($27.44 billion), on a par with China
and India combined.
However, Arab Spring protests have ratcheted up Gulf
sensitivity to criticism over how it deals with dissent, and
Britain is finding it trickier to balance its push for human
rights and democracy with its strategic and commercial
Discussions with leaders in the region are also likely to
include talks on how to bring a peaceful end to the conflict in
Syria, as well as how to best handle calls for greater freedoms
in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Cameron returns to London on Wednesday to meet German leader
Angela Merkel ahead of European Union budget negotiations.