France is on the verge of finalising a contract worth about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) for the sale of 24 Airbus-built military helicopters to Kuwait, a deal that highlights Paris’ growing commercial ties in the Middle East, officials said.

The contract – the latest to be agreed between Paris and a Gulf Arab state, comes after French President Francois Hollande was invited by Gulf Arab leaders in May to address their summit in Saudi Arabia, a rare privilege for a foreign head of state.

“In the framework of the defence partnership between France and Kuwait, the emir has expressed the wish … to equip his country’s air force with 24 Caracal type heavy helicopters. The contract will be signed soon,” Hollande’s office said after a telephone conversation between the French leader and Emir Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah. […]