UK to sell warships to Egypt for the first time in 30 years

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The UK government is planning to strike a deal with Egypt for the sale of two former solid Royal Fleet Auxiliary storage vessels for the first time in over 30 years, an agreement criticized by human rights groups.

In a statement on Friday, the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) said it had signed a “historic agreement” to sell two Royal Fleet Auxiliary (FRG) ships – Fort Austin and Fort Rosalie – to Egypt, a decision which they believe could “support jobs in the UK”,

The statement describes the sale as the “first military vessel agreement with Egypt in more than three decades” and adds that negotiations are underway for a “refurbishment contract”.

Former RFA Fort Rosalie and former RFA Fort Austin, both over 40, were released from service earlier this year. Egypt has entered into negotiations with ship repair group Cammell Laird for the regeneration and refit of the two ships – both put on hold at Bidston docks, Birkenhead – before delivery.

Both Royal Navy Solid Support ships have two flight decks, which means that in addition to traditional replenishment at sea, they can also use helicopters to unload supplies, according to a statement on the Defense website. Equipment and Support affiliated with the UK Ministry of Defense.

The sale has been criticized by activists, who have voiced concerns over the Egyptian government’s human rights record and criticized international powers for turning a blind eye to a major crackdown launched by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Samuel Perlo-Freeman, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) research coordinator, said: “Providing such important military equipment, treating the Egyptian military as a valuable partner, provides the regime with a seal of approval and legitimacy, while discouraging opposition. Once again, the UK puts industry interests and geopolitics ahead of human rights.

The Egyptian president has faced international condemnation for the crackdown on civil society groups since coming to power in June 2014, a year after leading the military to overthrow President Mohamed Morsi in a coup. He was defense minister in Morsi’s government before orchestrating the coup.

Human rights groups and activists have consistently accused Sisi of violating public freedoms and suppressing opponents. According to rights groups, around 60,000 political prisoners are held in Egyptian prisons.

In September 2020, a resolution released by the European Parliament urged EU member states to impose an arms embargo on Cairo, fueled by fears that European weapons and military equipment could be used for national oppression in Egypt.

Despite Sisi’s dismal human rights record, most EU countries have so far ignored the resolution completely. Since 2011, the British government has authorized $ 297.6 million in weapons to Egypt, according to CAAT.

Meanwhile, the administration of US President Joe Biden has approved an arms sale worth nearly $ 200 million to the North African country.


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