Britain to explore 'further defence exports' to Egypt - statement

Friday 13-05-2016 04:42 PM

Armoured vehicles heading to the town of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai. REUTERS

CAIRO, May 13 (Aswat Masriya) - The U.K. is “exploring further … defence exports to Egypt” to assist in the fight against the Islamic State group, the British embassy said in a statement on Friday.

Lieutenant-General Tom Beckett, a senior military advisor at the U.K. Ministry of Defence, made a one-day visit to Egypt on Thursday to reaffirm his country's "commitment to Egypt as an important military partner in the region" and in the fight against the Islamic State, the embassy added.

Beckett met with a number of senior military Egyptian officials and emphasised that Britain “remained firmly committed to strengthening” its military partnership with Egypt.

Militancy inside Egypt has seen a significant surge since the military ouster of former president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013, which followed mass protests against his rule. North Sinai has been at the epicenter of this insurgency. 

The Islamic State’s affiliate in North Sinai, known as Sinai Province, claimed responsibility for most of the attacks in the area. 

Militancy has also crawled gradually into other parts of the country, including the capital.

Last Sunday, eight policemen were killed while inspecting the security situation in the city of Helwan in Greater Cairo. The attack was later claimed by two militant groups, including the Islamic State's affiliate.

The U.K. Ministry of Defence official discussed with his Egyptian counterparts ways to increase cooperation to counter the threat of improvised explosive devices in the context of the fight against the Islamic State group, the embassy said. 

In the wake of Mursi's ouster, the British government suspended five arms export licenses to Egypt saying it wanted to prevent the use of British equipment “in the unrest” in the country. 

“We will not grant export licences where we judge there is a clear risk the goods might be used for internal repression,” the British government said in a statement on 19 July 2013. 

Another 49 export licenses were suspended in August of the same year after the violent dispersal of a pro-Mursi protest camp by Egyptian security forces led to the death of hundreds of protesters. 

But the revoked licenses have been gradually restored in the past few years. A report published in 2015 by Britain’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills revealed that it approved around $70 million worth of arms sales to Egypt in the first three months of the same year.

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