Egypt’s Parliament has cleared a $3.76 billion loan from France to buy new weapons and military equipment, Defense News reported Sunday. The country in recent years has sought to modernize its military amid an intensified battle against domestic and regional insurgent groups. The plan is likely to include navy vessels and fighter jets, a new parliamentary report said.
The Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the move, which will help support new technology for the army, navy and air force. Delivery of French-made weapons is slated to begin this year and end in 2017. Egypt, which has faced instability since a 2011 uprising ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak, increasingly has turned toward France for weapons in recent years.
The Egyptian military has been struggling to defeat Islamic extremist groups, including a domestic terrorist organization that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, called the Sinai Province. That extremist organization has killed hundreds of security forces in the northern Sinai and late last year downed a Russian airliner carrying more than 200 tourists.
Military sales to Egypt have been contentious in recent years. While President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has brought stability to much of the country, his government has been accused of egregious human rights abuses. Protesting has been outlawed, and political opponents, particularly from the Muslim Brotherhood, have been harshly suppressed.
The U.S. froze military sales to Egypt following a coup by Sissi in late 2013 in hopes it could pressure the country into passing democratic reforms. Last year, the White House lifted its ban on weapon sales to the country in a bid to “modernize” the military relationship between the two countries. While the U.S. and European nations have been critical of Egypt’s human rights record, the country is considered an important ally in the fight against the Islamic State group, aka ISIS, and other extremist organizations.