Egypt agreed Wednesday to buy two Mistral warships which France built for Russia before scrapping the sale over the Ukraine crisis, showing Paris increasingly values Cairo as a stable partner in a chaotic region.
The deal is the second big military contract this year between France and Egypt, although the financial details of the sale were not divulged.
President Francois Hollande and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi “have agreed on the principle and terms and conditions of Egypt’s acquisition of the two Mistral-class vessels,” the French presidency said.
The two warships, which can each carry 16 helicopters, four landing craft and 13 tanks, were ordered by Russia in 2011 in a 1.2-billion-euro ($1.3-billion) deal.
However France found itself in an awkward situation as the date of delivery neared in 2014, and ties between Russia and the West plunged to Cold War lows over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Paris faced the wrath of its allies around the world if it were to deliver the technology to Russia, and decided to cancel the delivery.
The deal comes after Egypt became the first foreign buyers of France’s Rafale fighter jet, agreeing to purchase 24 in February, in what Paris hailed as an “historic” accord.
The 5.2-billion-euro ($5.9 billion) sale of the planes and a frigate was a rare triumph for France which had failed to export its flagship multi-role combat jet.
Hollande said during a visit to Egypt in August that the ever-closer ties between Paris and Cairo were hinged on the “fight against terrorism.” Several countries were said to be interested in the warships, including Canada, India and Singapore.
While experts have said any sale would likely see a significant price cut, government spokesman Stephane Le Foll insisted France would not suffer “any losses” in the deal.