Sep 23, 2015

France, Egypt agree on Mistral warship deal

France has agreed to sell two Mistral helicopter carriers to Egypt after their sale to Russia was cancelled in August.
Cairo has sought to boost its military power in the face of a two-year insurgency based across the Suez Canal in the Sinai peninsula and fears the conflict in neighbouring Libya could spill over. Egypt's allies are also keen to burnish its image in a region beset by turmoil.
A French defence ministry source said the contract was worth about 950 million euros, but unlike the deal with Moscow would not include any technology transfer.
As of yet there had been no talks on the potential armament for the carrier, which can hold up to 16 helicopters and 1,000 troops.
A diplomatic source said Cairo wanted to base one ship in the Mediterranean and another in the Red Sea, making it available for future operations in Yemen, where Egypt is part of a Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels.
The French government agreed to reimburse 950 million euros to Moscow last month after the Mistral sale to Russia was cancelled as a result of the Ukraine crisis.
The deal with Egypt comes as France has nurtured new links with Sunni Arab states, which appreciate its tough stance on their Shi'ite rival Iran and similar positions on the region's conflicts.
France has also benefited from what some Gulf countries perceive as disengagement from a traditional ally, the United States.
The sale will take the number of French naval vessels sold to Egypt to seven in just two years.
Egypt last year bought four small Gowind warships, built by Mistral manufacturer DCNS, which is 64 percent owned by the French state and 35 percent by defence group Thales.
It also acquired a French frigate as part of a 5.2 billion euro contract for 24 Rafale warplanes earlier this year, France's first overseas export of the fighter jet.

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