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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Russian-Egyptian relations experiencing renaissance, three problems remain

The “warm welcome” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu received in Cairo shows that “Russian-Egyptian relations have been experiencing a renaissance,” Russian political scientist Gevorg Mirzayan says in Sputnik. He says Egypt started looking towards Russia, away from the US, because Egypt wanted “a new partner, predictable, pragmatic and reliable.”

However, Mirzayan says the apparent agreeableness between Egypt and Russia “does not mean that the sides readily found a common language … there were problems with the three issues on the agenda, namely the overall fight against terrorism, the fight against terrorism in Libya and the fight over Russian tourists.” Syria continues to be an issue as he believes Egypt is avoiding a conflict with Saudi Arabia because it is “re-arming its army using Saudi money.” One area Cairo and Moscow might be in agreement on that would not irk Saudi Arabia is fighting terrorists in Libya. Mirzayan even says such cooperation “could then boost a rapprochement between Russia and Europe.”

On the issue of resuming flights from Russia to Egypt, there seems to be an impasse. Mirzayan says “Moscow’s key demand is that Russian security experts should be present in Egyptian airports. Cairo however regards this as a breach of its sovereignty.”

Lavrov did put on his Cold War shoes yesterday, accusing the west of having a larger hand in the deterioration of security in Libya. “The western states that supported regime changes and financed militants in the Greater Middle East, particularly in Libya, bear responsibility for the chaos ravaging the region,” Lavrov said in Cairo, according to state-owned RT.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Defense Ministry and Libya’s National Army (LNA) have reportedly set up operational headquarters to coordinate airstrikes against Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups in Libya, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari is reported to have said on Monday, Sputnik reports. "The coordinated strikes of the Libyan and Egyptian air forces against terrorists are under the direct control of the head of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar, who is in the joint operational headquarters," Mismari added. Libya’s eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar also leveled fresh accusations against Qatar of funneling “large sums of money” to the terrorist groups the coordinated airstrikes are targeting, according to Asharq Al Awsat.

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