Russia-Egypt ties on the rise
Russian-Egyptian ties have improved markedly since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi became president
Russian-Egyptian ties have improved markedly since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi became president. His recent visit to Russia was the third since he was elected, and the second in one year. It was the third meeting between the two presidents in 2015, as Vladimir Putin was warmly welcomed in Cairo in February.
Bilateral trade has skyrocketed, with both sides expressing their will to increase it further. Cooperation is rising in all fields, but military cooperation has been the most remarkable. In addition to previously signed contracts worth of billions dollars, another was signed days before Sisi’s arrival that was worth $2 billion and concerned delivery of 46 MiG-29 fighter jets to Egypt.
Putin and Sisi have called for a broader coalition to combat terrorismMaria Dubovikova
The countries are set to develop energy ties. Russia is to build two nuclear reactors in Egypt to help fulfil the latter’s energy needs. During his visit, Sisi also discussed agricultural, educational and parliamentary cooperation. The speaker of Russia’s State Duma, Serguei Naryshkin, said Moscow was ready to send observers to Egypt’s forthcoming parliamentary elections, adding that bilateral cooperation was in the hands of their respective lawmakers.
However, the key issue that was discussed, and which has global implications, was the fight against terrorism. Putin discussed the same topic with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Meetings between the three Arab leaders also took place in Moscow, and they discussed common challenges and problems they face due to the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Putin and Sisi have called for a broader coalition to combat terrorism. Jordan’s king said Russia was a crucial player in the Middle East, and had a “vital role” to play in finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict - a position shared by Sisi.
These Middle Eastern countries are likely seeking a comfortable balance between the West and Russia, as both are needed to settle regional problems. They are also seeking more freedom of choice and independence in their decision-making. They want to listen to both sides and decide which vision is best for them.
Sisi’s support for a broader coalition against ISIS could persuade other players to consider the idea. However, the inclusion of the Syrian government remains a stumbling block for most countries fighting ISIS as part of the U.S-led coalition.
Russia knows that the key to its growing influence in the Middle East lies in its warmer relations with Egypt, which remains a major regional player.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme