Saudi Arabia, France hold joint military drill near Mecca

Saudi, French forces carry out military drill in Taif. (File photo)
Saudi, French forces carry out military drill in Taif. (File photo)
Saudi and French armed forces have been participating in a joint military drill this week in the mountains of Taif in the Mecca Province.

The drill comes as tensions between the Saudis and the US are growing over the Arab country’s disappointment with the US administration for not taking military action against Syria and for negotiating a deal with Iran over its nuclear program, which it sees as being too generous.

This drill could be part of the Saudi strategy to move beyond depending mainly on America and diversify its defense partnerships.

The Saudi and French forces carried out military exercises focusing on mountain warfare, according to local media reports.

The drill was observed by Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz.

One scenario incorporated the use of unmanned aircraft for surveillance, according to a report in the London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday. Black Hawk and Apache helicopters also took part in operations using live ammunition.

In August, France won a billion euro defense contract with Saudi Arabia to overhaul four frigates and two refueling ships, according to a report by AFP. And in October they began discussing a new deal for $2bn euros in order to modernize Saudi air defenses.

NTJ/BA

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