France has won a contract valued at over $1.35 billion to sell Egypt four naval frigates, representing the first large-scale military deal between the two countries in two decades, a French diplomatic source said Saturday.
“The contract is worth about 1 billion euros and was finalized last month,” a French diplomatic source told Reuters. “It’s the first big deal since we sold Mirage fighters (warplanes) about 20 years ago.”
Egypt awarded the contract to the DCNS company, in which the state owns a majority stake.
Egypt has been battling Islamist militants within its borders since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi led a military coup that toppled president Mohammed Morsi, who represented the Muslim Brotherhood, last year. The coup and subsequent crackdown on pro-Morsi protestors also led to the US withholding a large chunk of an annual $1.3 billion aid package, although some of those funds were released in April, along with a shipment of Apache helicopters.
French FM Laurent Fabius and el-Sissi discussed the Islamist threat during Fabius’s visit to Egypt on Friday.
“What we spoke about the most is the general terrorist threat,” Fabius said. “The Egyptians are convinced of the links of all these groups between each other and the risks they present.”
France has recently shown a keen interest in combating radical Islam in North Africa, including sending troops to Mali to help the government wrest control of the northern part of the country from Islamists.
On Saturday, French President Francois Hollande wrapped up a three-day west African tour on with a visit to the future headquarters of a new French force designed to combat Islamist violence.
The operation, which will be based in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, will involve some 3,000 French troops and operate in the restive Sahel region on the southern edge of the Sahara where Islamist rebels have staged multiple uprisings and incursions.
Operation Barkhane takes over from the French military mission in Mali.
That mission is being wound up, but 1,000 troops will remain in Mali’s north. The rest will cover the states of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Hollande has said the Barkhane force will will allow for a “rapid and efficient intervention in the event of a crisis” in the region.
France also has some 2,000 peacekeepers deployed in the Central African Republic, another former French colony riven by religious and ethnic conflict.
Hollande visited Niger and Ivory Coast earlier in the week, inspecting French military installations and meeting with fellow heads of state on security and development issues.