Putin in Egypt to expand divide with U.S.


It was all smiles as the Russian President landed in Cairo. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
It was all smiles as the Russian President landed in Cairo. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun a two-day visit to Egypt, as both sides aim to boost bilateral ties and discuss major regional security issues.

Ahead of his trip, he described Egypt as Russia’s “old and trusted partner”.

Mr Putin is seen as a key backer of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has been criticized by the West over his crackdown on dissent.

Mr Sisi, the former army chief, was elected president after previous leader Mohamed Morsi was ousted in 2013.

Hundreds of supporters of the former Islamist president have died in clashes with police and security services.

With a sour relationship with US President Barack Obama, President Sisi saw the Russian efforts as an opportunity to both pressure the Americans while also forming a closer bond with the Russians.

Egyptian and Russian officials are expected to discuss arms deals between the two countries during Putin’s visit.

In September 2014, it was reported by Russian State Television that Egypt and Russia were on the verge of signing a historic arms deal between the two nations worth more than $US 3 billion.

Meanwhile, in regards to trade between the two countries, Russia’s Putin announced on Monday that there are discussions to exclude the US dollar in bilateral trade between Egypt and Russia.

Among the other issues that are to be discussed between the Egyptian and Russian leaders are topics such as the Libyan crisis, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the civil war in Syria, and the Islamic State and terrorism.

‘Dynamic’ relations

Mr Putin landed arrived in Cairo late on Monday. He was greeted by President Sisi.

The two leaders attended a cultural show at Cairo’s opera house on Monday, with formal talks due on Tuesday morning.

In an interview with Egypt’s state-run al-Ahram newspaper, the Russian leader hailed “dynamic” bilateral relations, saying that trade increased by almost 50% in 2014 compared with the year before.

Mr Putin also suggested the two countries would discuss ending the use of the US dollar in bilateral trade, switching to national currencies instead.

The two presidents are also expected to hold talks on the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Mr Putin’s visit comes amid a growing crisis in eastern Ukraine, as diplomats try to reach a peace deal to end the fighting between government troops and pro-Russian rebels that has left nearly 5,400 dead.

Russia is accused by Ukraine and the West of sending its troops across the border and arming the separatists – a claim denied by Moscow.