File Photo: A Rafale fighter jet flies over the factory of French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation in Merignac near Bordeaux during a visit by the French President March 4, 2015 (Photo: Retuers)
French group Dassault Aviation is poised to sign a multi-billion-euro deal with Qatar for 36 of its Rafale fighter jets, sources close to the negotiations said Thursday, the third foreign order this year.
Having struggled for years to sell any of its Rafale jets abroad, Dassault has recently scored several lucrative, high-profile contracts with Egypt, India, and now -- if the deal is confirmed -- Qatar.
The agreement, which is due to be signed in the coming days, includes a firm order for 24 jets with an option on 12 other planes, said the sources, who wished to remain anonymous.
Dassault was not available for comment when contacted by AFP, and the French presidency said it had "nothing to say on the issue."
Earlier this year, Egypt bought 24 Rafales in a 5.2-billion-euro ($5.8-billion) deal negotiated in just three months, prompting hopes in Paris that the agreement would act as a catalyst to unblock hoped-for sales to other countries.
Sure enough, India followed suit and this month announced the order of 36 Rafale jets during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to France.
The two sides had already been engaged in years of tortuous, exclusive negotiations for the sale of 126 Rafales, but these had been bogged down over cost and New Delhi's insistence on assembling a portion of the high-tech planes in India.
So India, whose airforce is in dire need of new jets to update its ageing fleet, made a quick order for 36 planes while negotiations continue on finalising the initial 126-jet agreement.
Dassault is also involved in talks with the United Arab Emirates, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has recently hinted that these are evolving "in the right direction."