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Egypt was top importer of French arms between 2012 and 2021

French parliament report lists Cairo as number one customer for its arms industry, following a purchase of 30 Rafale jets
A model of the French made Rafale jet fighter is displayed during Egypt’s first Service Defence Exhibition in Cairo on 3 December 2018, at the International Exhibition Center (AFP)
A model of the French-made Dassault Rafale jet fighter at the Egypt Defence Expo in Cairo, on 3 December 2018 (AFP)

Egypt was the top importer of arms from France between 2012 and 2021, after its order of 30 Rafale fighter jets, according to an annual report by the French parliament published on Tuesday. 

France signed the most recent $4.5bn Rafale deal with Egypt in May 2021, to be delivered in 2024. 

Rights groups have denounced Paris over its increasing arms deals with Egypt, despite Cairo’s poor human rights record and its crackdown on peaceful activists on the pretext of fighting terrorism.

However, in December 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that he will not make arms sales to Egypt conditional on human rights because he did not want to weaken Cairo's ability to combat militancy in the region.

The parliament report also said that French arms exports more than doubled in 2021, reaching €11.7bn, including €5.2bn for the Near and Middle East region - 44 percent of the total.

France also signed a deal for the sale of 80 Rafale jets to the United Arab Emirates in December 2021, which came into effect in January 2022. The deal, worth nearly $15bn, is the biggest order of the warplane outside of the French armed forces.

The 2021 figures confirm France’s place as the world's third largest exporter of military equipment, behind the United States and Russia.

France made its first sale of Rafale in 2015, with a deal of 24 warplanes to Egypt, then 24 to Qatar and 36 to India.

Dramatic increase in EU arms sales

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), between 2013 and 2020 France was the top EU exporter of arms to Egypt and the second globally after Russia, surpassing the United States. 

The volume of arms exports from France has increased dramatically in comparison with the years preceding the rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

European Union countries have increased their arms sales to Egypt significantly since the general seized power, following a military coup in 2013.

Between 2013 and 2020, EU countries, including then member United Kingdom, exported or licensed at least $11bn worth of arms to Egypt, according to Campaign Against Arms Trade.  

Egypt is among the top 10 importers of arms worldwide, with a total of $22bn worth of arms bought between 2010 and 2020.

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In the days following the state-sponsored mass killings of anti-coup protesters in Cairo's Rabaa and al-Nahda squares in August 2013, the EU Foreign Affairs Council announced that EU member states had agreed to suspend export licences for any weapons that may be used for repression. 

The partial arms embargo was not legally binding, however, and many EU member states have subsequently continued to supply the Sisi government with arms. 

Amnesty International has accused 12 EU countries of flouting the Foreign Affairs Council declaration by exporting arms used in extrajudicial killings, torture and other human rights abuses. 

The EU parliament in 2016 called for the suspension of security cooperation with Cairo, and condemned arms deals between Egypt and France, Germany and the UK. It called on EU member states to put an end to their “short-sighted and delusive approach to Egypt’s security forces as a guarantor of stability and a partner to fight violent extremism and terrorism in the region”.

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