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Egypt to buy $4.5bn worth of Rafale fighter jets from France

France's fighter jets Rafale are seen parked on the flight deck of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle during a media tour at Changi Naval Base in Singapore on May 28, 2019 [ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images]
France's fighter jets Rafale are seen parked on the flight deck of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle during a media tour at Changi Naval Base in Singapore on May 28, 2019 [ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images]

Egypt's Ministry of Defence has announced that it will buy $4.5 billion worth of Rafale fighter jets from France in a move that has sparked outrage among human rights defenders.

The deal will go ahead through a loan to be repaid over ten years.

"By signing a mega-arms contract with [Egyptian President] Sisi's government while the latter presides over the worst repression in decades in Egypt, the eradication of the human rights community in the country and undertakes extremely serious violations under the pretext of the fight against terrorism, France is only encouraging this ruthless repression," said Human Rights Watch Director for France, Benedicte Jeannerod.

In June last year, HRW described French arms sales to Egypt as "shocking" and "appalling" considering Egypt's human rights record.

The comments followed the French government's 2019 report on arms exports which recorded that Egypt had racked up $1.1 billion in arms sales. Between 2013 and 2017 France was Egypt's main arms supplier.

In a visit to France in December 2020 Macron awarded Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, the highest award in France, which was ridiculed by activists and observers.

READ: Egypt biggest purchaser of Italy weapons systems, once again

French President Emmanuel Macron last year said that the French government has a policy of avoiding public declarations about other countries' human rights records and instead prefers to raise concerns in private.

Macron also refused calls to make weapons sales to Egypt conditional on human rights because he said he did not want to weaken Egypt's ability to counter violence in the region.

However, HRW documented war crimes committed by the Egyptian army in North Sinai where the government is waging a protracted and heavy-handed war against the local population in what it says is a just war against the local Daesh affiliate.

Amnesty International has documented the use of French equipment in the security forces' repression of protesters under Al-Sisi.

Between 2012 and 2015 Egypt used armoured vehicles manufactured by Renault Trucks and delivered by France "in some of the bloodiest operations of internal repression," Amnesty has said.

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