Egypt: Russia is no substitute for U.S.

Egypt, Russia officials discuss bilateral cooperation in Cairo

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Egypt’s foreign minister has sought to downplay speculation of a major shift in his country’s foreign policy, saying that Russia was too important to be a substitute for its key ally, the United States, during a landmark top-level Russian visit on Thursday.

Nabil Fahmy expressed these remarks after talks with his visiting counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who is leading the Russian delegation to Cairo.

When asked whether Russia would replace the U.S. as Egypt’s chief ally, Fahmy said Cairo was not looking for a “substitute for anyone,” the Associated Press quoted him as saying.

He added: “Russia’s weight is too heavy to be a substitute for anyone.”

The foreign minister said because of “Russia’s significance in the international arena,” Egypt is “looking forward to cooperation with Russia in multiple fields.”

“We look forward to strong, continuous and stable relations with Russia. We seek to energize a relation that is already in existence.”

The talks were the first at such a high level between the two countries “in the history of our friendly relations,” Agence France-Presse quoted Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich as saying last week.

Lukashevich said the discussions would touch on “military and technical cooperation” - a Russian euphemism for arms sales - as well as political and economic ties.

After the military-backed mass protests, which toppled Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammad Mursi, ties between Cairo and Washington have becoming increasingly strained.

Washington, which is Cairo’s main foreign backer and benefactor since the 1970s, has frozen a big chunk of its annual $1.3 billion military aid to the Arab country last month.

The move angered the Egyptians and prompted speculation in the local media that Egypt intended to sign a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with Russia. But there has so far been no official word from Cairo or Moscow on such a deal.

The Russian delegation in Cairo is Moscow’s highest-level visit in years and also includes Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, whose presence has set off rumors of an arms deal in the making.

Fahmy said he, Lavrov, Shigu and Egypt’s Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who led the July coup that ousted Mursi, would jointly meet later on Thursday.

Russia, Egypt on Syria

Meanwhile, both Russia and Egypt insisted that a political solution is the only way to end Syria’s war, with Lavrov calling for peace talks to be staged as soon as possible, AFP reported.

Russia wants an “international conference as soon as possible to open a political dialogue” that can resolve the Syrian crisis, said Lavrov.

Meanwhile, Fahmy said Cairo was against any military intervention in Syria.

“We call upon all to work on a political solution” to end the war, he said

(With The Associated Press and AFP)