By Hani al-Gamal – Cairo
Egypt and France recently held joint naval drills off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast.
The drills, in which different units of the two countries’ navies participated, came at a time Cairo and Paris moved ahead with coordination in the East Mediterranean.
Among the Egyptian naval units participating in the drills was the frigate Taba. France also sent its Jean Bart frigate to the games.
The drills came within plans by the Egyptian military to enhance military cooperation and the exchange of expertise with other states, the Egyptian army said. Military observers in Cairo noted that the drills came within the context of Egypt’s efforts to secure its maritime boundaries.
“These drills are the culmination of long cooperation between the Egyptian and French militaries,” said retired army general Samir Noah. Egypt has invested billions of dollars in the past few years in the modernization of its different army branches, especially the navy. The modernization has included the purchase of a wide range of French weapons, including two Mistral-class helicopter carriers. The carriers have fully-equipped command centres and are capable of transferring tanks and personnel carriers to remote places via the sea.
The helicopter carriers also contain advanced censors and modern communication tools. “These weapons have contributed to improving the capabilities of the Egyptian navy”, Noah said. The joint exercise, held on 3 November, included training in different naval combat formations as well as the assessment of surface, air, and submarine threats. It also included simulated combat operations in cases of naval threats.
The drills demonstrated the readiness of both navies to act, Egyptian Army Spokesman Tamer al-Rifae said. This was the second series of exercises between the navies of the two countries in two months. The Egyptian and French navies had previously conducted joint naval exercises off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast on 1 October.
Apart from its military nature, these drills reflect the high degree of political and economic coordination between the two states, analysts said.
“This is especially true in light of Turkish encroachments in the East Mediterranean and the provocations Turkey makes against Greece and Cyprus after the two states delimited their maritime boundaries with Egypt”, said Khattar Abu Diab, a Paris-based professor of international relations.
He added that the Turkish presence in Libya poses threats to Egypt’s national security and problems to the countries of the East Mediterranean. Abu Diab noted that Egypt and France also share the same vision on the fight against terrorism and radicalism. “The two countries also work together in the fight against illegal immigration”, Abu Diab said.