Fears for Egypt-France ties after airliner crash

Sunday 22/05/2016
Unidentified relatives and friends of passengers who were flying on EgyptAir flight 804

CAIRO - Regardless of the causes behind the crash into the Mediterranean of an Egyptian airliner en route to Cairo from Paris, the accident will take a toll on Egyp­tian-French relations in the short term, political analysts said.
Egyptian authorities have not ruled out terrorism in the May 19th crash of EgyptAir flight 804, which carried 66 people but analysts say if terrorism was the cause, the in­cident would deal a painful blow to relations between Egypt and France, whose economic, military and political ties had been growing steadily over the past three years.
“A bomb-on-board scenario will point to loose security measures at Charles de Gaulle Airport, where the plane was coming from,” Egyp­tian security expert Hossam Su­weilam said. “This will, of course, mean that French authorities did not carry out their duties towards the Egyptian flight.”
Apart from the political back­ing France has been offering the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi since he came to power in mid-2014, France is also a big supplier to the Egyptian military and the two countries have strong economic ties.
France is providing Egypt with 24 Rafale fighter jets as the Arab country modernises its air force. France has also sold Egypt two Mis­tral helicopter carriers to be used in protecting the country’s extended coastlines. In 2015, trade between Egypt and France reached $2.5 bil­lion.
Local analysts said Egypt cannot afford damaged ties with France, especially after its relations with important allies Italy and Russia were negatively affected over the past year.
“We cannot lose our allies one af­ter another,” Amira al-Shanawani, of the think-tank Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, said.
Egyptian-Russian relations were damaged in late October 2015 when a Russian plane, which had taken off from Sharm el-Sheikh Interna­tional Airport, crashed over Sinai, killing all 224 people on board. The Islamic State claimed responsibility in that incident, which investiga­tors concluded was likely caused by a bomb.
Egyptian-Italian ties started de­teriorating early this year after the death of an Italian researcher near Cairo. The burned and mutilated body of 28-year-old student Giulio Regeni was discovered February 4th on a highway outside Cairo just as Sisi was meeting with Italian In­dustry minister Federica Guidi a few kilometres away.