US ‘not concerned’ by French jet sale to Egypt

US 'not concerned' by French jet sale to Egypt
The Rafale jet fighter. File photo: AFP
The US said Friday that France's multibillion-dollar sale of Rafale fighter jets to Egypt was no cause for worry, despite Cairo's close defence-sales relationship with America.

"Egypt is a sovereign country," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "We have our own security relationship, so I wouldn't say there's a concern from this end."

Asked whether Washington suspected that Cairo was trying to replace the US with France or Russia as its primary defence supplier, Psaki replied: "I certainly don't think we see it that way."

On Monday, France and Egypt inked the first foreign sale of the French-made fighter for $5.9 billion.

The 24-jet deal was an economic victory for France and could strengthen the two countries' strategic partnership.

It could also give rise to criticism, due to alleged human rights violations carried out by the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief elected president after a coup in July 2013.

Washington is a long-time strategic partner of Egypt, to which it gives about $1.5 billion in aid each year, including some $1.3 billion in military assistance.

US-Egypt relations have been strained following Egypt's political turmoil and crackdown on protests.

Part of the aid was frozen in October 2013 with demands for democratic reforms after the brutal repression of Muslim Brotherhood supporters of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Washington has tried to balance its defense relationship with criticism of alleged violations by the Egyptian government.

It recently delivered Cairo a shipment of Apache helicopter gunships, supposedly for use in counter-terrorism operations, while also denouncing mass convictions of Sisi's opponents.

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