French president Emmanuel Macron heads to Egypt to reinforce ties

Three-day visit is expected to see the signing of several bilateral agreements

French President Emmanuel Macron meets resident at the day center for elderly people Le Clos de l'Hermitage in Bourg-de-Peage near Valence, easterncentral France on January 24, 2019, as Macron is visiting the region as part of the "Great National Debate" designed to find ways to calm the yellow vest (gilet jaune) movement protest. / AFP / POOL / EMMANUEL FOUDROT
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French President Emmanuel Macron travels to Egypt on Sunday for a three-day trip to boost trade and defence ties, although his office has ruled out the signing of a deal to sell Cairo more Rafale fighter jets.

Mr Macron is scheduled to visit the Abu Simbel temple and other historical sites in southern Egypt before meeting President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and signing bilateral agreements on Monday.

He is accompanied by a large delegation that includes five ministers, two dozen representatives from academic, cultural and scientific fields, and a dozen business leaders.

The visit is Mr Macron's first to Egypt since taking office in 2017, although he hosted Mr El Sisi in Paris in October that year.

France and Egypt share concerns over the situation in Libya, where political turmoil has created space for extremist militants to operate and allowed human traffickers to continue launching boatloads of illegal migrants bound for Europe.

Both countries have been the target of repeated terrorist attacks, and Egypt's military is engaged in an almost year-long operation against ISIS-affiliated militants in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt signed deals worth about €6 billion (Dh25bn) with France when Mr Macron's predecessor Francois Hollande was in office, including the purchase of 24 Rafale fighter jets, a frigate and two Mistral warships. An Egyptian pledge to buy a further 12 Rafale fighters has been on hold for almost two years.

An official in Mr Macron's office said last week that France was not expecting Egypt to finalise the fighter deal during the French president visit.

"Egypt could complete its fleet of Rafale jets in the weeks or months to come but there will not be a signing of contracts during the president's visit," the official told Reuters.