London/Abu Dhabi: Aiming to boost his country`s arms sales to oil-rich Gulf states, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has embarked on a three-day visit to the Middle East to push for the sale of as many as 100 British-made fighter jets worth billions.
Cameron, who has arrived in UAE, will promote the new Eurofighter Typhoons - which are partly made in Britain - to Saudi Arabia and Oman also.
The British embassy tweeted that Cameron had arrived in the United Arab Emirates "for a series of meetings." It later tweeted that he had breakfasted with British troops based in the Gulf state.
According to a statement by Cameron`s office, the prime minister, after his arrival, was to accompany senior Emirati officials on an inspection of RAF Typhoons stationed at a UAE airbase as part of a training exercise.
The visit to the UAE, to be followed by a stopover in Saudi Arabia, "signals the PM`s commitment to cementing long-term partnerships with two of Britain`s most important strategic allies in the Gulf," the statement said.
UK media reports have said the trip is to give push to British defence industry.
According to the Daily Telegraph, any new contracts would be a significant boost for BAE Systems, the UK`s flagship defence manufacturer, which last month saw merger talks with European EADS collapse after the German Government blocked the tie-up.
"It is highly unusual for a Prime Minister to be so open about the need to win defence contracts.
"His intervention suggests BAE and the Government think they have a good chance of persuading the UAE to buy 60 Typhoon fighter jets, even though it has engaged in protracted negotiations to buy Rafale jets from France’s Dassault.
"It would be a major coup for BAE and its Typhoon partners EADS and Finmeccanica, after the consortium lost out to Dassault on a deal to sell 126 fighters to India earlier this year," the daily said.
Failure to secure the India contract was one of the key motivations behind BAE and EADS`s decision to attempt to formally strengthen ties through a merger, it added.
Oman is in talks with BAE for 12 of the Typhoon jets, with a deal due to be signed off by the end of the year.
The Saudis are also looking to place what Downing Street sources describe as a "substantial" order for more jets on top of the 72 jets they have already acquired.
Cameron will be using all his persuasive skills to try to persuade the UAE to replace its current fleet of French mirage jets with Typhoons, the report said.
If the sales push comes off, officials said the deals could be worth more than 6 billion pounds to British firms, with more benefits to companies in the supply chain.
Britain is also keen to deepen ties with Gulf states amid growing concern about Iran`s alleged attempts to develop their own nuclear weapons.