Egypt, France look to expand arms deals

Former French President Francois Hollande meets with Egyptian President Abdel FattahEl-Sisi in Riyadh in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 02 November 2017

Egypt, France look to expand arms deals

CAIRO: France has welcomed the possibility of a new deal to supply Egypt with 12 of its fourth-generation fighter aircraft, Dassault Rafale, in addition to the 24 planes Egypt agreed to buy in 2015.
Eleven of those aircraft have already been delivered, and a number of recent French government leaks to the press suggest the additional deal is currently being discussed. However, leaders and military officials of the two countries have not confirmed this.
During Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s visit to Paris last week, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 Radio, “We will see if there is a new deal ... The signing of new contracts between France and Egypt for the Rafale will be a good move.”
However, French daily La Tribune quoted “relevant” sources as saying that the French Ministry of Economy and Finance objected to the alleged deal, having underwritten the previous Rafale contract, which also included a FREMM multi-tasking frigate valued at more than €5.2 billion.
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 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. This despite the fact that Egypt has reportedly not missed any scheduled payments for the 2015 deal.
When asked whether his ministry was blocking the deal, Le Maire said on the radio, “It is natural that the French Ministry of Finance wants to make sure that Egypt is able to pay for the planes.”
French weapon systems are a major focus of the Egyptian Armed Forces’ efforts to modernize its arsenal. Egypt reportedly spent €6.83 billion on French arms between 2014 and 2016.
The Egyptian navy purchased four Gowind 2500 corvettes in 2014 for €1 billion, and its maker, Naval Group, has offered to provide two more since then.
Safran has offered Egypt its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle “Patroller,” as used by French land forces, while Airbus has offered its NH90 land-and-sea transport helicopter as well as its A400M military transport aircraft.
In a press conference with El-Sisi in Paris on Oct. 24, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed that the relationship between the two countries was a “military partnership.”
Retired Egyptian Air Force Gen. Hesham Al-Halabi, who is now an adviser at Nasser Military Academy, pointed out that France had been happy to provide Egypt with various weapons over the past three years not just because of the increasing strategic convergence between the two countries.
“There is also the desire to show the high quality of French weaponry, especially as it is used by the Egyptian armed forces in many joint maneuvers and exercises, as well as in its anti-terrorism operations,” he told Arab News.
Al-Halabi suggested that French media reports about an additional deal are likely unconfirmed rumors aimed to further promote the Rafale fighters. He claimed the original contract for 24 aircraft was the catalyst for similar sales to Qatar and India.
Certainly, France continues to push the Rafale heavily to Arab and Asian markets. France’s Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, finished a foreign tour on Monday, which included visits to the UAE and India.
France is looking to sell 36 additional Rafale aircraft to India — doubling the country’s original purchase — and has been negotiating with the UAE since 2009 for the sale of 60 Rafale fighters.
With manufacturer Dassault looking to double its production of Rafale fighters in 2018, it could prove difficult for the French Ministry of Finance to put the brakes on any further deals with Egypt. Particularly since production from Zohr Field, the largest Egyptian offshore natural gas field, is due to start before the end of this year.
Zohr should make Egypt self-sufficient in natural gas, and enable it to export part of its production. This will significantly improve Egypt’s financial status and its ability to fulfill international financial obligations.


Egypt urges decisive action against states backing ‘terror’

Updated 11 December 2019

Egypt urges decisive action against states backing ‘terror’

  • El-Sisi was apparently referring to Turkey and Qatar
  • Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula

CAIRO: Egypt’s president Wednesday called for “decisive” and “collective” action against countries supporting “terrorism” in an apparent reference to Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in Egypt.
The three countries also support opposing factions in the war-torn Libya.
Addressing a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi also said achieving sustainable development in Africa is needed, along with efforts to fight militant groups in Egypt and the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
“There should be a decisive response to countries supporting terrorism and a collective response against terrorism, because the terrorist groups will only have the ability to fight if they are provided with financial, military and moral support,” he said.
The gathering in Aswan is attended by the leaders of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal along with officials from the US, Britain and Canada.
The Sahel region is home to Al-Qaeda and Daesh-linked militants. El-Sisi said Egypt could help train forces and provide weapons to countries in the region to fight extremists.
Egypt has for years been battling a Daesh-led insurgency that intensified after the military overthrew Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Mursi in 2013 amid mass protests against his brief rule.
Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula, as well as in the country’s vast Western Desert, which has witnessed deadly attacks blamed on militants infiltrating from neighboring Libya.
Since Mursi’s ouster, tensions have grown between Egypt and Turkey and Egypt and Qatar. The political party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designated as at terrorist group in 2013.
El-Sisi also said a “comprehensive, political solution would be achieved in the coming months” for the conflict in Libya, which descended into chaos after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi. He did not elaborate.
He said that would put an end to a “terrorist hotbed that pushes militants and weapons to (Libya’s) neighboring countries including Egypt.”
El-Sisi apparently was referring to an international summit in Berlin that aims to reach an agreement on actions needed to end the conflict. The conference had been scheduled for October, but it has apparently been postponed.
El-Sisi’s comments came amid heightened tensions with Turkey after a controversial maritime border agreement it signed last month with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.
Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically, have denounced the deal as being contrary to international law, and Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador last week over the issue.
Haftar has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrestle control of the capital. He is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.