Egypt, France hold joint Mediterranean military exercise
Egypt and France began on Sunday joint maneuvers in the Mediterranean in which French Rafale warplanes purchased by Cairo last year are taking part, the Egyptian army said.
The "Ramses 2016" military and naval exercise is being held off the coast of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and are expected to last for several days, the army said on its Facebook page.
Paris announced the maneuvers last Tuesday saying the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is being used to launch airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, would also take part.
The drill is aimed at "sharing our expertise with the Egyptian military ... one of our main Middle East partners," the French defense ministry said at the time.
The Egyptian army said a French multi-mission frigate purchased by Cairo last year would also take part in the drill along with Rafale combat jets and F-16 warplanes.
In 2015, Cairo signed a multi-billion euro deal to purchase from France 24 Rafale fighters, of which six have been already delivered.
On December 19, the Charles de Gaulle carrier took command in the Gulf of the naval contingent operating as part of the international coalition fighting the jihadi IS group.
|For decades, Egypt was unable to hold large-scale military exercises along its eastern border, because of restrictions imposed by the Camp David peace treaty with Israel.|
The Libyan connection
The French-Egyptian maneuvers are taking place amid Western concerns over the growing influence of IS in Libya, a country bordering Egypt.
"Although the maneuvers have been planned for months, we cannot see them in isolation from indications suggesting military intervention in Libya is imminent," said an Egyptian military expert to The New Arab.
However, the expert ruled out an Egyptian ground intervention in Libya, though he said Cairo could provide aerial or naval support along the lines of the Egyptian role in Yemen.
For decades, Egypt was unable to hold large-scale military exercises along its eastern border, because of restrictions imposed by the Camp David peace treaty with Israel.
However, the situation changed gradually in coordination with Tel Aviv, following the eruption of the insurgency in Sinai.