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France and Egypt ink billion euro deals

Nik Martin (AFP, Reuters)April 19, 2016

Several agreements with a combined worth of more than 2 billion euros have been signed between French companies and the Egyptian state. French President Francois Hollande is in Cairo as part of a regional tour.

Egyptian President Sissi and Francois Hollande
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Egyptian Presidency

The French government confirmed Monday that contracts had been signed for the French companies Airbus Space Systems and Thales Alenia Space to build a military telecommunications satellite for Egypt's defense ministry.

"After discussions between French and Egyptian presidents and between the Ministers of Defense, the contract on a communication satellite with Egypt is signed," said the Elysee Palace.

The statement said the total monetary worth of deals concluded during Hollande's visit was more than two billion euros ($2.3 billion). The Reuters news agency reported that the satellite deal alone was valued at approximately 600 million euros.

Strengthening ties

Earlier in the day, Hollande opened a business forum with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Monday, telling the audience that the stability, security and development of, not only Egypt, but also the whole region was at stake.

"France is the sixth largest foreign investor," Hollande said, adding that Paris intended for the partnership to grow further.

In turn, Sissi said trade between the two countries reached nearly 2.58 billion euros in 2015 and that Egypt "was working seriously to create an attractive investment climate for foreign companies."

On Sunday, both Hollande and Sissi signed 18 agreements and memorandums of understanding in the areas of energy and transport.

One of the deals included the extension of the Cairo metro for 1.2 billion euros, won by a consortium led by Bouygues and Vinci. Other agreements were made for the financing of a wind farm and a solar power plant.

French energy firm Engie said it had signed LNG and renewable energy contracts during Hollande's visit to Cairo.

Sigmar Gabriel & Egyptian President Sissi
Vice-Chancellor Gabriel and Egyptian President SissiImage: picture-alliance/dpa/B.v. Jutrczenka

Gabriel signs deals too

Hollande's trip coincided with a visit to Cairo by German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who described Sissi as an "impressive president." Germany and Egypt also signed six economic agreements during the visit.

Ahead of his trip, Hollande was accused by rights groups of a "deafening silence" in relation to Egypt's human rights record, which has seen the Sissi administration launch a bloody crackdown on Islamist opponents and jail leaders of the secular and liberal opposition since he deposed and arrested ex-President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 when he was leader of the military.

But on Sunday, Hollande did raise the issue of human rights publicly, insisting that respecting rights was not a hindrance to fighting "terrorism."

He said he also brought up the case of Eric Lang, a French teacher who was murdered in an Egyptian jail in 2013.

Germany's Gabriel also told of his concerns over human rights violations in Egypt, describing another case of an Italian citizen, who disappeared in Cairo on January 25 and whose body was found more than a week later bearing torture marks.

Italian officials believe he was killed by security services, which Cairo denies.