Egypt in talks to buy France’s Rafale fighter jet
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French hopes of finding a foreign buyer for the flagship Rafale fighter jet bounced back on Thursday as France’s leading business daily said Paris was in advanced talks with Cairo over a €6 billion deal.
Les Echos said the French and Egyptian governments were close to finalising an agreement for 24 jets and a naval frigate.
The newspaper said the deal could be financed by as much as 50 percent through a credit facility arranged by French credit insurer Coface and involving some of France’s biggest banks.
A spokesman for the plane’s manufacturer, Dassault Aviation, declined to comment on the report.
The Rafale has been described as one of the most effective and sophisticated fighter jets in the world, but also one of the most expensive.
More than a decade after its launch, the multipurpose aircraft is yet to find a foreign buyer.
Dassault has been in exclusive negotiations with India for the last three years, but no final deal has been signed.
From Mirage to Rafale
Egypt was the first foreign buyer of the Dassault-made Mirage jet in 1981. Now France is hoping it will follow suit with the Rafale.
Paris and Cairo have enjoyed close economic ties in the past but the recent turmoil in Egypt has left Western governments wary of signing contracts, especially in the defence sector.
Following the rise to power of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, relations have improved and both sides are concerned by the rise of jihadist groups in neighbouring Libya and in Egypt’s Sinai province.
Last year, France secured its first major military contract in Egypt in two decades with a €1 billion deal to sell four naval frigates.
Senior French officials have repeatedly travelled to Egypt over the last year and Sisi in November undertook a state visit to Paris, where discussions were held about replacing Egypt's fleet of 18 Mirage jets.
Dassault is under increasing pressure to sell the Rafale overseas. The French government said last year it would take just 26 Rafale jets over the next five years, down from 11 a year so far.
In 2013, the French manufacturer lost out to Sweden's Saab in a 10-year battle to supply Brazil's air force.
A French delegation visited New Delhi last month in an attempt to salvage a preliminary agreement to sell 126 Rafale fighters to the Indian government.
The deal has stalled amid a dispute over who should oversee assembly of the planes in India.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)