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Egypt ends US arms 'monopoly' with French jet deal

Rafale jet fighter. Image via internet

CAIRO (AFP): Egypt's decision to buy 24 Rafale jet fighters from France underscores its determination to diversify its sources of weapons and reduce its dependence on the United States, experts said.

The 5.2-billion-euro (USD 5.9 billion) deal is a historic first foreign sale of the Rafale for France, which is set to sign the contract in the Egyptian capital today.

Rights group Amnesty International has criticised the sale of the jets and a frigate to a nation that it has accused of "alarming" human rights abuses.

The United States -- a long-time strategic partner of Egypt, to which it gives about USD 1.5 billion in aid each year including roughly USD 1.3 billion in military assistance -- has played down the impact of the sale.

"Egypt is a sovereign country," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday. "We have our own security relationship, so I wouldn't say there's a concern from this end."

US-Egyptian relations have been strained since the military deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and launched a brutal crackdown on his supporters.

Morsi, the country's first freely elected head of state, was toppled by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi following massive protests against his controversial one-year rule.

Sisi was elected president in May 2014 with 96.91 percent of the vote.

More than 1,400 people have died in the crackdown on Morsi supporters.

Thousands have been imprisoned and hundreds sentenced to death, while Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has been branded a "terrorist" organisation and banned.

The brutal repression of Morsi supporters prompted Washington to freeze part of its aid to Cairo in October 2013 and demand that Egypt implement democratic reforms.

"The contract (with France) is an implicit message to the United States signifying that Egypt will no longer count exclusively on US weapon supplies," said retired Egyptian army general Mohammed Mujahid al-Zayyat.

Egypt no longer wants to be "blackmailed" in its relations with the United States, said Zayyat, an expert with the Cairo-based National Centre for Middle East Studies.

US officials "have their own views as to how the Egyptian army should be rebuilt and reject the army's belief that Israel is its key enemy," he added.

Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 but relations between the two neighbours have never been fully developed and remain frosty over Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.


Egypt  US  Arms  France  Jet  Military  

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