Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Arabian Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister, visits Paris on 27 June 2016 to participate in the third Saudi-French Joint Committee, co-chaired by the young Prince and French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
The Deputy Crown Prince will also meet with French President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and Defence Minster Jean-Yves Le Drian while in Paris.
The meetings with Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his French hosts will cover a range of issues such as commercial deals, economic developments related to the Saudi National Transformation Program 2020, tourism, health, and defence cooperation. France is one the biggest foreign investors in Saudi Arabia, and one of Riyadh’s closest defence and security partners. Yet among the issues thought to be not on the Paris agenda is the long-running French bid to supply Saudi Arabia with reconnaissance satellites.
For several years Paris and Riyadh have been negotiating a possible satellite reconnaissance deal where a joint venture between Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space are bidding to supply Saudi Arabia with anywhere between two to eight high-resolution imaging satellites. The systems on offer are thought to be a variant of the EADS Astrium (now Airbus) Pléiades earth observation satellite. This satellite type is the basis for the Falcon Eye satellites being built by Airbus and Thales Alenia Space for the United Arab Emirates. U.S. satellite manufacturing company Orbital ATK is also believed to be bidding for the Saudi satellite reconnaissance deal.
According to the French news website Intelligence Online, the delay in closing a satellite reconnaissance deal is because of a combination of financial uncertainty in Riyadh due to the recently announced economic reforms there and the impending French presidential elections. French President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian have all personally lobbied the Saudis on behalf of Airbus and Thales Alenia Space, but are not expected to remain in office after the elections expected in early 2017.
This does not mean that the Saudi satellite reconnaissance competition is being abandoned, but certainly the timing is not quite right.
Original published at: http://spacewatchme.com/2016/06/saudi-visit-paris-reconnaissance-satellite-deal-not-sight/