Members of the German delegation to Egypt and the Egyptian government have begun discussing the sale of two naval submarines to Egypt, German vice-chancellor and minister of economic affairs Sigmar Gabriel announced during a press conference held on Monday morning in Cairo.
Gabriel announced the potential arms deal in summarising the results of his three-day visit.
“The Egyptian government did not ask Germany for a weapons deal during this visit, but there was discussion about supplying two naval submarines. We are ready to fully cooperate with Egypt to secure its borders with Libya,” Gabriel said at the press conference.
Germany and France announced the naval submarine deal in 2012. Under the initial terms of the agreement, Germany would export four state-of-the-art military submarines to Egypt. Germany completed the first submarine on 10 December 2015, according to the state-owned MENA news agency.
Egypt has finalised several arms deals with different countries, despite the difficult fiscal situation that has plagued the government since the 25 January Revolution.
According to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an international think-tank based in Sweden, Egypt’s arms imports rose by 37% between 2006 and 2010 and 2011 and 2015.
SIPRI calculates that the value of arms transfers to Egypt in 2015 reached US$1.475bn, compared to US$686m in 2010 and US$368m in 2014.
Gabriel said that, due to the current security situation, Egypt has “legal rights to ask for weapons.”
Despite restrictions imposed on the international sale of weapons for nearly 15 years to enhance peace worldwide, Germany became the world’s fourth-largest arms exporter in 2015, according to the latest German arms exports report.
Germany recently approved several arms deals with a number of Arabian Gulf States, including Oman and the United Arab Emirates, according to Gabriel’s letter to lawmakers in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German legislative body.
Germany considered ending arms exports to Saudi Arabia after the Gulf kingdom carried out its largest state execution in decades, according to a previous statement by Gabriel in January.
Germany is currently providing Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq with weapons to combat the Islamic State (IS), according to Gabriel.
Regarding human rights conditions in Egypt, Gabriel said the security situation in Egypt is far more difficult in comparison to that of Germany and other European countries. He added that all countries are facing the threat of terrorism, but Egypt is under greater threat due to its proximity to volatile regions.
“I met with number of human rights representatives in Egypt who reported several violations. Trilateral talks between European, German and Egyptian representatives regarding the human rights status concluded that the solution is to launch a dialogue and undertake necessary measures without assaulting public freedoms,” Gabriel said.
The German vice-chancellor stated he had ‘tough’ talks with the Egyptian government regarding human rights conditions. He said that guaranteeing such rights will not only be beneficial to the democracy process, but will also encourage investment and production. He added that any investor seeks safety, including “democractic stability”, that allows freedom of expression and the establishment of NGOs.
Regarding the murder of the Italian student Guilio Regeni, Gabriel confirmed that Germany asked the Egyptian government to reveal the full truth.
“Regeni’s murder terrified us and raised a lot of fears. It also harms Egypt’s reputation,” he said.
Gabriel refused to evaluate the bilateral investigative efforts between Italy and Egypt on Regeni’s murder, arguing that he does not have the requisite information.
Gabriel arrived in Egypt on Saturday night in an official visit, heading a delegation of 120 investors to sign several agreements and to discover investment opportunities in Egypt.
On Sunday, Gabriel met with President Al-Sisi and said, in a press conference held in Ithidiya Palace which followed the meeting, that Egypt is taking important steps towards achieving democracy and that Germany supports these steps.
He further highlighted that Germany is committed to providing full cooperation with Egypt to secure its border with Libya.
Al-Sisi visited Germany in June 2015 in a trip that was hailed by the state as a marker of successful relations between the two countries and has heralded a number of economic agreements. The visit was, however, marked by widespread protests in Berlin, decrying Egypt’s deteriorating human rights record.
The president’s visit was also uncharacteristically marked by the presence of 140 high-profile figures, including actors and celebrities. These figures held their own demonstrations, in an effort to offset the opposition faced by the visit among the German population.