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
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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.
 


UN envoy to Yemen says agreement on de-escalation in Taiz and Hodeidah ‘not there yet’

Updated 39 min 7 sec ago
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UN envoy to Yemen says agreement on de-escalation in Taiz and Hodeidah ‘not there yet’

LONDON: United Nations Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said on Monday that agreement on the de-escalation in Taiz and Hodeidah are ‘not there yet’.
Speaking at a press conference in Stockholm, during the first round of the UN sponsored peace talks between the legitimate Yemeni government and the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, Griffiths told reporters that they will continue to discuss Hodeidah and Taiz, which he described as “two major population zones in Yemen caught in war.”
The warring parties are in Sweden for weeklong talks expected to last until Dec. 13, the first since more than three months of negotiations collapsed in 2016.
“I’m hopeful that we can reach agreements on the de-escalation to reduce the fighting in both places. I’m hoping that we can. We’re not there yet.”
“If we are able to achieve progress on those two places and lift the threat of war to the people in those two places, I think we’ll have done a great service to Yemen,” Griffiths said.
Initial drafts of the proposals on the rebel-held port city of Hodeidah and Taiz call for a mutual cease-fire between the two parties.
The Hodeidah draft stipulated that the Arab coalition supporting the legitimate Yemeni government would cease an offensive on the rebel-held city in exchange for a Houthi withdrawal.
The area would then be put under the control of a joint committee and supervised by the United Nations. The document does not propose the deployment of UN peacekeeping troops.
Griffiths said the UN had simplified the Hodeidah draft, which is still under study by the Yemeni delegations.
“We are always redrafting, so some of those documents that you’ve seen” have changed, Griffiths told reporters.
“We’re working on simpler draft,” he added. “The details of that are in deep discussion.”
The two sides are also looking at a draft UN proposal on the southwestern city of Taiz, under the control of pro-government forces but besieged by the rebels.
The initial draft stipulated an unconditional cease-fire, a joint working group that includes the UN to monitor the cease-fire, and the reopening of all roads and Taiz airport for humanitarian operations.
The Yemeni government, which is backed by the Arab coalition, has been battling the Iran-backed Houthi militia for control of Yemen for nearly four years, pushing the impoverished country to the brink of famine.
He also said they are still working to find a common ground for the reopening of Sanaa airport.
During the talks, the two sides discussed a broad prisoner swap, which Griffiths said had proved the least contentious issue, adding that he hoped it “will be very very considerable in terms of the numbers that we hope to get released within a few weeks.” He said the numbers of prisoners to be released by the warring parties will be announced soon.
The UN envoy said he expects to present a detailed plan for the next round of talks and hopes for an agreement from warring factions to hold the next round of talks early next year.

(With AFP)