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Sunday, 3 December 2017

Russia, Egypt sign agreement to use each other’s airbases

Russia and Egypt have signed an agreement allowing each to use the other’s airspace and air bases for warplanes planes under a five-year agreement, Reuters notes. Signing of the agreement was authorized last month by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and was signed following a meeting in Cairo last Wednesday between Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who met ostensibly to talk cooperation on combatting terrorism. US officials had said back in March that Russian special forces had been using Egyptian air bases to launch operations in Libya.

Still nothing on restoring flights: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry sat down with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week to discuss, among other things, restoring flights between both countries which have been suspended for a little over two years now since the downing of a Russian airliner over Sinai. No real updates emerged beyond the usual statements of working further to bring those flights back as soon as possible, according to a statement from the foreign ministry.

The international press is positioning the agreement as a “snub to the Trump administration.” The revelation came just as US Defense Secretary James Mattis was in town yesterday for talks with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Cairo yesterday. Counterterrorism was the focal point of the meeting, which saw Mattis reaffirm the US’ commitment to supporting Egypt — a strategic ally for the US — in its fight against terrorist forces, according to a readout from Ittihadiya. Mattis’ visit comes amid speculation the US may lift its freeze on USD 290 mn worth of aid to Egypt. Mattis’ visit to Cairo is the first stop in a five-day Middle East tour,, according to the Pentagon.

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