France to boost UAE air defence support after Houthi attacks

  • UAE attacked twice with drones and missiles in recent weeks
  • Paris and Abu Dhabi have close economic and political ties
  • Agreement would see ops conducted from Al Dhafra air base
  • France would offer refueling and surface-to-air capacities

PARIS, Feb 4 (Reuters) - France will reinforce the United Arab Emirates' air defence system after a series of ballistic missile and drone attacks launched from Yemen by Iran-aligned Houthi rebels on the country, the French armed forces minister said on Friday.

Paris has close economic and political ties with Abu Dhabi and has a permanent military base in the Emirati capital. It sealed a deal in December to sell some 80 Rafale fighter jets to the Emirates, the largest ever overseas sale of the French warplane.

"The United Arab Emirates was victim of serious attacks on its territory in January," Florence Parly wrote on Twitter. "In order to show our solidarity with this friendly country, France has decided to provide military support, in particular to protect the airspace against any intrusion."

The UAE has in the past fortnight been attacked twice with drones and missiles, claimed by the Houthis, including one targeting a base hosting the U.S. military. It was thwarted by U.S.-built Patriot interceptors.

France's Armed Forces Ministry said the agreement with Abu Dhabi would see operations conducted from the Al Dhafra air base offering refueling and surface-to-air capacities.

"Aircraft operations are planned ... in coordination with the Emirati air forces, to detect and intercept drone strikes or cruise missiles targeting the UAE," the ministry said.

Refueling and regular Rafale fighter jet observation missions would take place solely over Emirati territory, French officials said.

Earlier this week, the United States had also said it would send fighter jets to assist the United Arab Emirates following missile attacks on the Gulf state launched by Yemen's Houthi movement. read more

Reporting by John Irish Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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