President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is visiting France this week. Both countries enjoy good diplomatic and strategic relations. In October, Egypt withdrew its candidate for the position of president of the UNESCO in favour of French candidate Audrey Azoulay.
Although Egyptian candidate Moushira Khattab made it to the round before the last, Egypt supported the French candidate to prevent the Qatari candidate from winning, in light of the Gulf crisis.
Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry has visited France several times in several occasions and in the frame of boosting bilateral relations between Cairo and Paris, the last of which was ahead of UNESCO elections.
Al-Sisi last visited France under former president Francois Hollande in November 2014. This came a few months after Al-Sisi’s inauguration as president. France had first condemned his arrival to power on grounds that former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was elected, a position shared at the time by several foreign countries including the US.
In July 2013, Hollande had described what happened as a “huge failure” in a meeting with former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki in Tunisia.
Egypt had responded to foreign criticism by reminding of the anti-Morsi popular uprising of 30 June and explaining that the role of the army was to protect the will of the people and prevent a civilian war that could have been initiated by the Islamists.
By November 2014, Egypt’s plan to explain its point of view in international events had succeeded in turning France’s position to accept Al-Sisi’s legitimacy and encourage Egypt’s roadmap. The two presidents began discussing Middle East issues, the Libyan crisis, the fight against terrorism among other bilateral deals.
In February 2015, Egypt and France signed an agreement to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets in a €5.2 billion deal. The deal also includes contracts for missiles and for a FREMM multi-mission frigate named Mistral, according to Defence News.
In August 2015, Hollande visited Egypt and attended the inauguration of the New Suez Canal, a project presented by Al-Sisi as the first national achievement.
Two months later, Al-Sisi and Hollande met on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. Hollande praised the remarkable growth in cooperation between the two countries and expressed hope for more.
In April 2016, Hollande visited Egypt for the second time and discussed with Al-Sisi boosting political and military ties. “Cooperation between the two countries in all international fields needs to be expanded, including on transportation, renewable energy and terrorist threats,” said Al-Sisi during the visit.
In May 2016, the two countries mourned their nationals abroad the crashed EgyptAir flight 804. The plane travelling from Paris to Alexandria carried 66 passengers and crew members including 30 Egyptians and 15 French. The two countries worked closely on investigations which have not concluded to date.
In May 2017, Al-Sisi congratulated new president-elect Emmanuel Macron asserting the depth and strength of Egyptian-French relations. In a telephone call to the French president, Al-Sisi expressed keenness to continue cooperating in various fields of common interests. Macron asserted the need to consult with Egypt on regional and international affairs.
The two confirmed cooperation in investigations of the EgyptAir crash. Both leaders also discussed developments on some regional issues including ongoing efforts in the Libyan crisis in order to achieve progress in the political process.