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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Don’t expect much by way of restoring flights with Russia from Lavrov’s visit

Don’t expect flights from Russia to be reinstated after Lavrov’s visit: Moscow has not imposed new conditions for resuming direct flights to Egypt, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who is in Cairo with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu for ‘2+2’ talks with their respective counterparts. He said at a joint press conference on Monday with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, however, that the resumption of direct flights between Russia and Egypt would be possible only when Cairo fully implements security agreements, Sputnik and Reuters report. The caginess isn’t surprising considering last week’s statements by Russia’s Deputy Transportation Minister Valery Okulov, who essentially said that talks on restoring flights have gone nowhere. This comes despite repeated reports of an improved security situation at Egypt’s airport. Senior adviser to the Tourism Ministry Waleed El Batouty expresses our frustrations well when he says that all of Russia’s security demands for security have been met, Al Shorouk reports.

The meetings aren’t really about Daba’a or the restoration of flights… Both sides appear to want to these issues forward, judging by statements by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zeid picked up by Al Shorouk. Economic issues that tie in to the restoration of flights — including the Daba’a nuclear power plant agreements — will be part of the 2+2 talks, according to a statement from Ittihadiya on a meeting between both Russian ministers and President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

…security cooperation is at the core of the visit: “Collaboration between Egypt and Russia is crucial for struggle with terrorism. Coordination of efforts in that sphere is already underway,” Russian state news agency TASS quotes Shoukry as saying at the press conference. Cairo and Moscow are closely coordinating their efforts to eliminate sources of terrorist financing and to take action against states that sponsor terrorists, he added. As we noted yesterday, Libya will likely take center stage in the talks. Moscow is conducting operations there, and media reports continue to cite a Russian presence in Western Egypt (a claim both countries have consistently denied). Security talks also generally include a whiff of an arms agreement, but we have yet to hear anything from either side on where we stand on the deliveries Russian shipborne Ka-52K Katran combat helicopters for Egypt’s Mistral-class helicopter carriers.

Speaking of Libya: Shoukry will discuss the situation there with his Algerian and Tunisian counterparts in Algiers on 5-6 June, according to Algeria’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, ANSAmed reports.

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