Hollande was to be the first Western head of state to attend a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh.
“If we are present here in Qatar and the region it is because France is considered a reliable country which a partner country can give their confidence to,” said Hollande as Paris tries to deepen political and economic relations with the Gulf monarchies, particularly Qatar.
The 6.3-billion-euro contract – the third one this year for Dassault after deals to sell Rafale to Egypt and India – also includes MBDA missiles and the training of 36 Qatari pilots and 100 technicians by the French military.
Hollande’s visit comes at a crucial time for the six-nation GCC (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) amid the Saudi-led coalition's bombing of rebels in Yemen, world concern over the rise of Islamist militants and worries over a nuclear deal with Iran.
Qatari investors have taken stakes in major French companies – oil firm Total, luxury goods group LVMH and French football club Paris Saint-Germain.