Putin-Sisi meeting opens ‘new chapter’ in security, military cooperation

Egypt and Russia have agreed to broaden intelligence cooperation, especially regarding the movement of suspected terrorists.
Sunday 21/10/2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi shake hands after a signing ceremony in Sochi, on October 17. (AP)
Old ties. Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi shake hands after a signing ceremony in Sochi, on October 17. (AP)

CAIRO - A comprehensive strategic partnership treaty between Egypt and Russia will bolster ties between both countries, especially in military sectors, experts said.

The signing of the treaty October 17 was the focal point of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s 3-day visit to Russia.

Egypt and Russia have agreed to broaden intelligence cooperation, especially regarding information on the movement of suspected terrorists. Security cooperation would extend to parts of the North Africa and Middle East region where Moscow and Cairo work on common objectives.

Both Sisi and Putin agreed to maintain coordination on Syria, where Russia has a decisive military presence and Egypt is endeavouring to help unite the opposition to join negotiations for a peaceful settlement.

Sources said the situation in Libya was also part of the leaders’ discussions against the background of recent reports pointing to an increase in Russia’s military presence in the North African country.

Egypt is supporting Libyan Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar in the conflict and is hoping to gain Moscow’s backing for Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which controls much of eastern Libya. Cairo’s cooperation with Haftar was highlighted by the arrest of Hisham al-Ashmawy, a high-profile Egyptian militant leader, by the LNA in eastern Libya.

Sisi said the agreement opened a “new chapter in the history” of Egyptian-Russian bilateral relations.

Egypt is to host the Defenders of Friendship 3 military drills involving Egyptian and Russian paratroopers, a sign of growing military ties between Cairo and Moscow.

Egypt also signed multibillion-dollar deals to purchase heavy military equipment, including warplanes and attack helicopters, from Russia.

Sisi met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow and spoke at the Russian Federal Assembly where he said Egypt and Russia were facing a common security challenge in terrorism. “Such a scourge needs to be eradicated but we must join hands to be able to eradicate it,” Sisi said.

Relations between Egypt and Russia have been expanding since Sisi became president in 2014. He has been simultaneously seeking to strengthen Cairo’s ties to Moscow, Washington and Beijing, a move that has paid off for the Egyptian president.

There was also an agreement to move ahead with the construction of a power plant in north-western Egypt. Putin said his government, which is contributing a long-term loan of $25 billion for implementation of the project, would sign contracts with Egyptian companies participating in the project later this year.

Trade between Egypt and Russia has more than doubled to $6.7 billion, increasing 20% in the first eight months of this year.

Russia is to build a $7 billion industrial park in the Suez Canal region. Moscow wants the park, which will employ 7,000 Egyptians, to be a springboard for emerging markets in the Middle East and Africa.

One area in which the Egyptian president was left disappointed was the resumption of direct flights between Russia and the Red Sea resorts of Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh.

Russia suspended direct flights to Egypt in late 2015 after the bombing over Sinai of a Russian passenger plane that carried 224 passengers and crew members.

In April this year, Moscow resumed direct flights to Cairo, with promises to restore flights to the Red Sea resorts “soon.”

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