Egypt OKs weapons deal with France
French President Francois Hollande confirmed Thursday an arms deal has been struck with Egypt worth more than 5bn euros ($5.7bn).
France will export 24 Rafale planes, the first to be distributed to a foreign country. A frigate and “related military equipment” are also included.
“The Egyptian authorities have just let me know their intention of acquiring 24 Rafale planes, a multi-mission frigate, as well as related equipment,” said Hollande’s office in a statement.
“The Rafale fighter jet has won its first export contract.”
France has tried for years to export the plane.
In 2014, a military contract between the two countries marked the first time in 20 years since such a deal had been reached, with France selling four naval frigates worth $1.35bn.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had announced on 2 February a $1.31bn budget for counter-terrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula, adding that he was looking to France to supply Egypt with much needed modern equipment.
The same budget is what the United States allocates to Egypt on an annual basis in terms of economic and military aid, but it has frozen the delivery of weaponry since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in the summer of 2013. Part of that $1.3bn budget was suspended, although the funds were released in June 2014 after the US Congress passed a law that requires the Egyptian government to take steps to improve human rights conditions in order to receive the aid. Last month, the US delivered 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt, in a bid to bolster the latter’s counter-terrorism activities.
Egypt has been battling armed groups in the Sinai in the aftermath of its 2011 January uprising. The army has lost control over large swathes of land in the Sinai, and accused militants operating in the desert of being terrorists.
One such group, which called itself Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, recently changed its name to Welayet Sinai after it pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State in November 2014.
Egypt is also worried that the chaos from neighbouring Libya will spill across its borders.
The arms deal with France is expected to be signed on Monday.