Russian officials in Cairo as Egypt eyes arms deal

Russian officials in Cairo as Egypt eyes arms deal

Senior Russian officials Thursday began top-level talks in Cairo on boosting military cooperation, as Egypt seeks arms purchases worth 2 billion dollars from Moscow, dpa reported.

"Russia is ready to help Egypt in all fields," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy.

Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu met for more than three hours with Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, reported state-run newspaper al-Ahram online, giving no further details.

The four ministers were later Thursday to meet for the first such gathering between senior officials from the two countries in years.

Egypt is eyeing arms deals worth up to 2 billion dollars from Russia, Ruslan Pukhov, a defence advisor accompanying Shoigu on the visit to Cairo, told dpa by telephone.

Al-Ahram quoted an unnamed Egyptian official as saying that Egypt demanded military links with Russia not be limited to arms purchases. "This cooperation should extend to joint industrialization, with Russia helping Egypt to set up a base to locally manufacture its weapons," said the official.

Egypt's military is looking for arms suppliers other than the United States, which suspended deliveries of military hardware and cash aid after the army overthrew Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July.

What Cairo needs most is air-defence systems and anti-tank missiles, said Ruslan Aliev of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

Other experts cautioned that selling Russian weapons to Egypt will not be easy because the country's army has been mainly equipped with US-made hardware for more than 30 years.

"If they now start buying Russian equipment again, they need to do large-scale readjustment," said Moscow-based defence expert Alexander Golts.

However, the fact that Shoigu has set no press conference for his visit means that both sides are not ready to announce any deals yet, the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported.

Egypt had close relations with the Soviet Union from the 1950s. That changed in the 1970s, when president Anwar Sadat cancelled military contracts with Moscow, and shifted his policies toward the West, mainly the United States.

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