According to the Italian newspaper La Republica, the Italian government is set up to soon approve the MEGA defense deal with Egypt that includes 6 Frigates including 2x confirmed FREMM Bergamini, 24 M-346 trainer jets, 24 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, 20 Falaj II OPV and 1 Military Satellite.
According to Italian reports, Italy is currently discussing with Egypt one of the largest arms sales for Rome since World War II. The potential arms sales to Egypt would be worth between 9 billion to 11 billion euros.
The reported deal would include the delivery to Egypt of an additional four FREMM frigates, 20 offshore patrol vessels, 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft, 20 M-346 jet training aircraft and an observation satellite.
Beretta added, “We have repeatedly said that the matter regarding the two FREMM frigates and the entire issue of arms and military systems for Egypt should be discussed in parliament where the government should report about the military, security and economic features concerning the deal.”
Italy has become a major trade partner for Egypt, while its arms industry has grown to become one of Egypt’s main suppliers, as such sales have increased from 7.4 million to more than 871 million euros from 2016 to 2019, according to annual parliamentary reports.
A former Egyptian diplomat told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that Egypt’s relations with Italy are strategic and that the arms deals point to improved relations.
The diplomat praised the Egyptian policy of diversifying its sources of armaments, and said Italy is an important partner of Egypt in the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean region.
Egypt relies on the Italian government-owned ENI, which is the largest gas and oil producer in Egypt, to produce nearly half of Egypt’s petroleum wealth
Despite domestic pressure, Italy sees the military deal with Egypt serving as a guarantee to build strong relations with Cairo so as to preserve an active role in the eastern Mediterranean, a significant hotbed in the region.
Italy is a co-founder of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, established in January 2019 by Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, with the purpose of promoting natural gas exports among its member states.
On the other hand, Italy is keen to not lose one of the world’s top arms importers. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s March 15 report said Egypt was the third-largest arms importer for 2016-2020. During that period, Egypt’s arms imports grew by 136% compared with 2011-2015, with France as the top exporter to the country, followed by Russia, Germany, the UK and the United States.
He stressed that Egypt enjoys strong military relations not only with Italy but also with France, Germany, the UK, the United States, Russia and China. Since the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the Egyptian military has been seeking to diversify weapons sources instead of relying on one source — a trend that has been more accentuated under Sisi — in a bid to increase military capabilities to face the regional challenges and preserve national security, he said. “The countries of the world are also keen to strengthen their relations with Cairo.”
Brig. Gen. Khaled Okasha, member of the National Council for Combating Terrorism, seems to concur with Mazloum, as he said that Egypt enjoys military relations with major countries in the world and has a well-studied and clear scientific plan to modernize and develop its various weapons in the army, such as the navy and air defense, to maintain its national security.
“Egypt’s keenness on diversifying its sources of armament contributes in strengthening its army by bringing in arms from different branches of armed forces from various countries,” reported Al-Monitor newspaper.
“Egypt has strong military ties with many countries in the world including France, the United States, England, Russia and not just with Italy. Therefore, the dispute over the Regeni case is something secondary and did not affect in any way the strong economic military relations between Rome and Cairo,” he added.
Okasha explained that Egypt’s great position and its pivotal role in the region put it at risk of great challenges, and therefore it is essential for Cairo to increase its military capabilities to preserve its national security. “In this context, several major countries, including Italy, deal with Cairo, as they are well aware of its great role and share common interests. Egypt maintains stronger ties with France, Germany, the United States and Russia, and does not count on one country only for armament,” he concluded.
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