France's government says its arms exports grew sharply last year, notably amid violence and tensions in the Middle East.

The Defense Ministry says in a report Tuesday that orders rose by 43 percent over the previous year to 6.87 billion euros ($8.9 billion). That is 30 percent higher than the annual average between 2002 and 2012.

The report says customers in the Mideast represent "almost half of the orders." Saudi Arabia was France's top customer, and it also signed large deals with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

France is the fourth-largest weapons exporting country in the world after the U.S., Britain and Russia.

It recently announced its decision to suspend the delivery of a Mistral-class warship to Russia, in the context of the Ukraine crisis.