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Sunday, 17 November 2019

Is Egypt risking US sanctions again with potential warplane purchase from Russia?

Egypt risks US sanctions with potential purchase of Russian arms: The US could move to impose sanctions on Egypt over an agreement that would see Cairo purchase Russian warplanes in a USD 2 bn transaction, according to a letter seen by the Wall Street Journal. “Major new arms [agreements] with Russia could — at a minimum — complicate future US defense transactions with and security assistance to Egypt,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in the letter. The warning comes after Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu met with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Defense Minister Mohamed Zaki here in Cairo, calling for “closer” military ties between Egypt and Russia.

Background: In August 2017, the US had decided to withhold USD 95.7 mn in aid and delayed another USD 195 mn in military assistance, citing human rights concerns. Analysts speculated at the time that move was aimed more at curbing Egypt’s alleged ties to North Korea, especially considering the improvement in US-Egypt ties following Donald Trump’s election. The US government decided last July to release the USD 195 mn it had delayed, saying that Egypt had taken steps to address US concerns.

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