Egypt’s Defense Ministry confirmed today that it signed an agreement to buy 30 Rafale fighter jets from France in what an investigative group says is a $4.75 billion arms deal.
France’s government confirmed on Tuesday it will begin delivering the jets in 2024. Defense Minister Florence Parly said in a statement that the deal is crucial for France’s “sovereignty” and will create 7,000 jobs.
The France-based investigative nongovernmental organization Disclose reported on Monday that it had obtained documents outlining three contracts signed on April 26 with French defense companies. The agreement was confidential at Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s request, the group reported.
The deals include $4.5 billion (3.75 billion euros) worth of Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter jets, and $240 million (200 million euros) worth of avionics and munitions from France’s missile manufacturing conglomerate MBDA and Safran Electronics & Defense.
France’s government is guaranteeing the funds for up to 85% ($4 billion) via loans from Credit Agricole, Societe Generale, BNP and CIC banks, Disclose reported.
Rights advocates slammed the sale as enabling the Egyptian military during the country’s worst repression in decades.
Sisi, a former defense minister who came to power after overthrowing the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi in 2013, oversaw the alteration of Egypt’s Constitution two years ago to allow him to remain in power until 2030.
He also saw a brutal crackdown on dissent and suspected dissent of all forms in Egypt. Rights groups estimate some 60,000 political prisoners languish in Egyptian jails. The Egyptian military has also been accused of serious abuses amid its fight against Islamist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula.
Benedicte Jeannerod, Human Rights Watch’s director in France, told Reuters that “France is only encouraging this ruthless repression” by agreeing to sell Cairo more arms.
In December, French President Emmanuel Macron said his government would not condition arms sales to Cairo based on human rights concerns, citing the Sisi government’s fight against Islamist terrorism.
Egypt’s defense ties have grown since the former US administration of President Barack Obama withheld major defense sales to Cairo following Sisi’s coup.
In 2015, Egypt signed a deal to purchase 24 Rafale fighters from Paris. That agreement left open the possibility of Cairo purchasing another 12 of the fighters.
The Sisi government has also courted Russia, agreeing to buy potentially dozens of Su-35 fighter jets and alarming policymakers in Washington who see arms sales as a means of leverage in the region amid competition with Russia and China.