Egypt has kicked off joint air and naval drills with France, one of its biggest arms suppliers, in the Mediterranean, the Egyptian army said Monday.
“Egypt and France are carrying out the ‘Ramses 2022’ naval and air exercises in the Mediterranean… which will last several days,” army spokesman Gharib Abdelhafiz said in a Facebook statement.
The latest exercises aim “to exchange martial and field experience as well as prepare for any joint operations”, the statement said.
The spokesman added that the drills also seek “to secure vital targets in the Mediterranean”.
The two countries have held several naval drills in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean involving Egyptian and French frigates, according to separate statements by the Egyptian army.
Last year, Egypt signed a deal with France’s Dassault Aviation company to purchase 30 Rafale fighter jets.
Egypt is the world’s third-largest arms importer, after Saudi Arabia and India, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Its arms purchases from France have significantly increased under the rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, totaling around 9 billion euros (around $10 billion) between 2015 and 2021.
Sisi took office in 2014 after leading in the previous year the military ouster of his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi, on the back of mass protests against his divisive rule.
In 2015, Egypt purchased 24 Rafale fighter jets from France, as well as other military hardware, including Mistral warships and missiles.
Rights groups have often criticised France for selling weapons to Egypt in view of the latter’s human rights record.
In 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would not make human rights guarantees a precondition for selling weapons to Egypt.
Macron decorated Sisi with the Legion of Honour, the highest in France, during the Egyptian president’s visit to Paris in December 2020.