Talks are underway in Paris over the sale of two Mistral-class amphibious ships that were initially intended for the Russian navy, but which Egyptian officials have taken an interest in, the French newspaper La Tribune reported, according to Russian state news site Sputnik News. Plans to sell the vessels to Russia were scrapped in 2014 amid disagreements over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine.
Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has reportedly approved of the purchase, but the parties continued to negotiate over the price. Several other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Canada, India and Singapore, have also expressed interest in purchasing the vessels. Mistral-class amphibious ships are often used to serve military operations overseas, as they are able to carry helicopters and other vehicles.
The Mistrals were originally ordered by Russia in 2011, and were set to be delivered in 2014 and 2016. President Francois Hollande canceled the deal in 2014, following Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and reportedly compensated Russia with $1 billion dollars for the canceled delivery.
The negotiations with Egypt come as the country's involvement internationally has widened. The ships could be deployed to the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea to assist military operations in Libya or Yemen, Sputnik said. Egypt announced earlier this month that its forces would send ground troops to Yemen to fight alongside a 10-country coalition. Before that announcement, Egypt’s role in the country was largely limited to an airstrike campaign.
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Egypt’s purchase of military equipment and weaponry has been a matter of concern in recent years. Amid accusations of widespread human rights violations by Sisi’s government, the European Union and the United States placed a partial arms embargo on Egypt. However, that arms embargo was lifted in April when the U.S. ended its hold on military equipment, as Egypt stepped up its commitment in Yemen and continued to battle the Islamic State group, also known by ISIS or ISIL, in the Sinai region. President Barack Obama ordered the release of a dozen Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft, 20 Boeing Harpoon missiles, and up to 125 M1A1 Abrams tank kits, Aljazeera America reported.
Negotiations for the Mistrals were expected to last until the end of October if the parties manage to reach an agreement on the price.