France said on Tuesday it will begin delivering 30 Dassault warplanes to Egypt from 2024 in a deal valued at $4.8 billion, as it strengthens ties with a partner it considers vital in fighting Islamist militants.
In December, President Emmanuel Macron drew criticism from rights groupswhen he said he would not make the sale of weapons to Egypt conditional on human rights because he did not want to weaken Cairo’s ability to counter militancy in the region.
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said the deal, confirmed on Tuesday, illustrated the “strategic nature of the partnership” between the countries and would secure 7,000 jobs in France over three years.
“Our two countries are resolutely committed to the fight against terrorism and work for stability,” she said.
Egypt’s military has expanded its domestic status and influence under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former army chief who has been president since 2014, waging operations against militants in the Sinai Peninsula.
Benedicte Jeannerod, Human Rights Watch Director for France, said Sisi’s government was presiding over the worst repression in Egypt in decades. “By signing a mega-arms contract … France is only encouraging this.”
The deal also covers contracts for missile provider MBDA and equipment provider Safran Electronics & Defense worth over $240 million.
France concluded more than 7.5 billion euros in arms deals with Egypt between 2010-2019, including 24 of the same warplane, the Rafale, in 2015 in what was its first export sale.