Egypt has agreed to buy two Mistral warships from France as the country faces an insurgency and instability on its borders. The helicopter-carriers were originally slated to be sold to Russia.
Egypt will purchase two Mistral-class warships from France that were originally to be sold to Russia.
Egypt and France “have agreed on the principle and terms and conditions of Egypt’s acquisition of the two Mistral-class vessels,” the French presidency said in a statement on Wednesday.
The vessels are capable of carrying 16 helicopters, up to 1000 troops and 50 armored vehicles.
The sale of the ships to Russia was canceled over the row between western governments and Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. If implemented, the sale would have been the most expensive weapons sale by a NATO member to Russia.
In August, the two countries canceled the deal after France agreed to refund 950 million euros ($1 billion) already paid by Russia.
The French government declined to say how much Egypt would pay for the two assault ships, although it said it would not lose money from the sale. Under the deal with Russia the sale would have amounted to some 1.2-billion-euro ($1.3-billion).
The decision to sell the warships to Egypt comes as the country faces an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, where a regional branch affiliated with the “Islamic State” has carried out multiple reecent attacks on security forces.
Egypt also faces instability in neighboring Libya and has been a part of the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen to oust Houthi rebels. Its president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was formerly a general and ousted elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in a 2013 coup following public protests against Morsi’s rule.
It was not immediately clear how cash-strapped Egypt would pay for the warships, but earlier this year Arab states including Egypt agreed to form a joint Arab military force to respond to crises in the region. A source told Reuters in August that Saudi Arabia and the oil-rich Gulf states would likely finance part of Egypt’s Mistral purchase.
Earlier this year, Egypt purchased 24 advanced Rafale warplanes from France and a Fremm frigate as part of a 5.2 billion euro deal.
France has sought to increase defense ties with Sunni Arab states amid regional turmoil and concern over Iran.