Russia, Egypt to discuss largest arm deal: Reports

Russia, Egypt to discuss largest arm deal: Reports
Thu Nov 14, 2013 16:46:34

Just one month after US announced it was suspending military aid to Egypt, Russia appears to be trying to fill that gap, discussing a large arms deal with Egypt, reports said.

Egypt's top general also hailed a new era of defense cooperation with Russia on Thursday during a visit by Russian officials, signaling Egyptian efforts to revive ties with an old ally and send a message to Washington after it suspended military aid.

Tension between Cairo and Washington has mounted since the army overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3.

Last month, Washington announced it would withhold deliveries of some military and economic aid pending progress on democracy.

Both sides billed as historic the visit to Cairo by Russia's defense and foreign ministers, though officials said nothing to indicate the conclusion of major agreements during a joint news conference by the foreign ministers.

And playing down speculation of a big shift in Egyptian foreign policy defined by close ties with Washington for more than three decades, Interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said Russia was not meant to be a "substitute" for anyone.

Egypt and the Soviet Union were close allies until the 1970s, when Cairo moved closer to the United States, which brokered its 1979 peace deal with Israel.

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's army chief and interim defense minister, told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, the visit indicated the continuation of "historic strategic relations via starting a new era of constructive, fruitful cooperation on the military level", the state news agency reported.

Shoigu and Sisi talked about strengthening military relations between the countries, the agency said.

"It's meant to send a message to say Egypt has options, and that if the United States wishes to maintain its strategic alliance with Egypt, it will have to drop the conditions it attaches to the military aid," said Yasser El-Shimy, Egypt analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Washington has said it would consider resuming some of the suspended aid depending on Egypt's progress in following the interim government's plans to hold elections - a plan the government says it is committed to seeing through.

Egypt receives around $1.3 billion in military aid from the United States each year.

But on October 9, Washington announced it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles as well as $260 million in cash aid from the military-installed government pending progress towards democracy and human rights.


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