CAIRO // Egypt yesterday pledged strong ties with Russia as it negotiated multibillion-dollar arms deals following the US decision to cut defence aid to the military-backed government.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov were in Cairo yesterday to meet their counterparts Gen Abdel-Fattah El Sisi, and Nabil Fahmy, the highest-level contact between the two countries since Mohammed Morsi was removed from power in July.
“We look forward to strong, stable and continuing relations with Russia,” Mr Fahmy said at a joint news conference with Mr Lavrov. “We are working on reactivating relations that have been there throughout the past years, not as a replacement to anyone.”
The Obama administration last month suspended some military aid to Egypt, including US$260 million (Dh995m) in cash and deliveries of F-16 fighter jets, helicopters and tanks.
“We agreed on the continuation of political cooperation, as well as, military and military-technical cooperation which was a basic part of the discussion,” Mr Lavrov said. “We have decades-old relations with the Egyptian people. We are strategic partners.”
While no military deals are expected to be signed at the Cairo talks, the two sides will agree on a framework for contracts, the Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported yesterday, without citing anyone.
Egypt is seeking as much as $2 billion of Russian weaponry, including MiG-29 fighters, air-defence systems and anti-tank missiles, according to Ruslan Pukhov, a member of the Russian defence ministry’s advisory board and head of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow.
Egyptian officials are looking for financing from an unidentified Arabian Gulf country to buy as much as $4bn of Russian arms, Palestinian newspaper Dunia Al Watan reported November 6. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have pledged at least $12bn to Egypt’s new government.
Egypt is discussing the possibility of spending $4bn on Russian weapons and on contracts to renovate the Aswan Dam, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper reported November 11, citing unidentified Egyptian government officials.
Egypt, an American ally for more than three decades, received about $1.3bn a year in military aid from the US before July this year.
Egypt and the Soviet Union became allies in the 1950s when President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev forged ties. Egypt received Soviet military assistance, including during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, and the Soviets financed infrastructure projects such as the Aswan Dam to irrigate land and supply electricity.
The ties lapsed after Nasser’s death in 1970, when the Arab nationalist was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, who set the regional power on a pro-US track that accelerated under Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in 2011. In 1972, Sadat expelled thousands of Soviet military advisers and in 1976 ended a treaty on friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union.