French Finance Ministry allows Egypt’s new Rafale fighter plane contract to progress

A Rafale fighter jet prepares to land at the air base in Saint-Dizier, France, in this February 13, 2015. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 29 November 2017
0

French Finance Ministry allows Egypt’s new Rafale fighter plane contract to progress

CAIRO: Egypt’s purchase of 12 Dassault Rafale fighter jets from France looks to be going ahead, allaying Cairo’s fears that the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance (Bercy) would block the deal.
During a three-day visit made by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to Paris in October, French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that he wanted to continue to develop the relationship between Egypt and France. As a result, the Élysée — the president’s office — reportedly asked Bercy to stop blocking negotiations for the sale of a dozen more fighters to Egypt.
Egypt has been modernizing its armed forces with support from France in recent years, beginning when Jean-Yves Le Drian was French minister of defense. Egypt spent around €7 billion with the French arms industry between 2014 and 2016, and currently has several contracts ongoing with French companies, including a military telecom satellite for its air force, in addition to the Rafale fighters, and four Gowind 2500 corvettes for its navy.
But Bercy was unwilling to allow Egypt to strike further deals with the French government, having underwritten the previous Rafale contract, which also included a FREMM multi-tasking frigate valued at more than 5.2 billion euros.
A letter of guarantee from the ministry to the Compagnie Française d’Assurance pour le Commerce (COFACE) financed the 2015 deal. The letter of guarantee was sent to French investment bank Bpifrance in early 2017.
La Tribune reported earlier this year that the letter of guarantee had been fully utilized and that the ministry did not wish to underwrite further loans for any transactions concluded with Egypt, whether military or civilian, despite the fact that Egypt had reportedly not missed any scheduled payments for the 2015 deal.
Macron’s desire to resolve the matter is based on guarantees. Egypt’s economy is expected to grow by 6 percent this year, according to analysts. Cairo has money to pay the bills. And from the end of this year, Egypt should be able to rely on gas production in the Mediterranean to satisfy domestic demand for several decades, with sufficient excess to export part of its production, significantly improving Egypt’s international financial status.
French daily La Tribune reported that Cairo has requested the same terms as those in contracts Egypt already signed for 24 of the planes in 2015.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian delivered a new French proposal to El-Sisi at the World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh earlier this month, according to the newspaper.
With Bercy apparently no longer seeking to block the deal, an Egyptian delegation visited Paris last week to resume negotiations. There is a good chance that a contract will be signed before the end of the year.
 


Coalition hits back over reported civilian deaths in east Syria

Updated 16 min 47 sec ago
0

Coalition hits back over reported civilian deaths in east Syria

  • 43 people were killed in the strikes launched by the coalition
  • The US-led coalition has consistently denied reports by the Observatory in recent days

BEIRUT: The US-led anti-militant coalition hit back Sunday at reports its air strikes on a Daesh group holdout in eastern Syria had killed civilians, appearing to blame their deaths on regime forces.
More than seven years into the country’s civil war, multiple offensives have whittled down the swathes of Syrian territory Daesh once controlled to a small pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on the Iraqi border.
A Kurdish-led alliance backed by the coalition is battling to expel Daesh from that holdout, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
Russian-backed regime forces have been fighting the militants west of the river.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said coalition strikes on Saturday killed 43 people, including 36 family members of Daesh fighters in the village of Abu Al-Husn.
But the coalition denied that its air raids there had killed any non-combatants.
The US envoy for the coalition, Brett McGurk on Sunday appeared to blame regime forces stationed “across the river” for the civilian casualties.
“Reports of civilian casualties attributed to coalition strikes are false. All other forces should cease uncoordinated fires from across the river immediately,” he said on Twitter.
In a statement late Saturday, the coalition reported 19 coalition strikes on Daesh targets “free of civilian presence” between late Friday and Saturday afternoon in the militant enclave, which includes the town of Hajjin.
The coalition’s “initial assessment following the strikes is that there was no evidence of civilians near the strikes,” it said.
But the coalition “detected a total of ten additional strikes in the same area of Hajjin that did not originate from the coalition or partner forces,” it added.
It called “on all other actors to cease uncoordinated fires across the Euphrates.”
The Observatory, a Britain-based war monitor, said regime forces and Daesh fighters exchanged fire across the river on Saturday, but pro-government shelling did not hit Abu Al-Husn.
The US-led international coalition has consistently denied reports by the Observatory in recent days that its air raids have killed civilians.
It says it takes allegations of civilian casualties seriously and investigates each one thoroughly.
Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in land it controlled.
But the militant group has since lost most of it to offensives by multiple forces in both countries.
On Saturday, Syrian regime forces retook control of the group’s last holdout in the country’s south as the militants retreated into the desert after months of fighting, the Observatory said.
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Since 2014, the US-led coalition has acknowledged direct responsibility for over 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq, but rights groups put the number much higher.