French weaponry exports fell sharply last year in the absence of major deals to sell new Rafale fighter jets, with Middle Eastern clients again making up the bulk of the orders, the defence ministry said today.
In its annual report to parliament, the ministry said the value of exports dropped to 6.9 billion euros (USD 8 billion) from 14 billion euros the previous year and the record 17 billion euros booked in 2015.
Those two years saw the first big export orders for Rafale jets made by Dassault Aviation -- to Egypt, Qatar and India -- following a string of failed efforts to sell the planes outside France.
But France, the world's third-biggest arms exporter after the US and Russia, will book an additional 12 Rafale sales to Qatar this year.
"The results from 2017, with 6.9 billion euros, is in line with the average from years before the Rafale contracts," the ministry said.
It added that helicopters and missiles made up nearly half of last year's foreign orders.
Orders from Middle East clients rose to 3.9 billion euros from 1.9 billion in 2016, despite an economic slowdown stemming from lower oil prices "which delayed some acquisition projects," the ministry said.
NGOs and other critics have assailed France for supplying weapons to Mideast governments, in particular Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over their support for pro-government forces in Yemen fighting Huthi rebels.
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