Moscow and Cairo began strategic rapprochement / News / News agency Inforos
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Moscow and Cairo began strategic rapprochement

Are historical analogies relevant?

18.11.2013 22:01 Andrei Ilyashenko

Moscow and Cairo began strategic rapprochement
Context:

In Cairo, for the first time in the history of bilateral relations the "2 +2" talks between Foreign and Defense Ministers of Russia and Egypt have been held. The question was the cooperation not only in economics and politics, but also military cooperation and deliveries of Russian weapons. The public dialogue in such a sensitive area allowed talking about the return of the Russian-Egyptian ties to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser who was building a military-political alliance with the Soviet Union in the 60s. However, Moscow and Cairo oppose such a simplified approach to the assessment of the current negotiations.

During the final press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized the convergence of views on key issues in the Middle East - Syria and Palestine, as well as in relation to the idea of holding an international conference on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the region. This directly concerns Iran, Israel, and other key players in the Middle East. The main thing is certainly that after the deposition of the Islamist President Mohammed Mursi Cairo adjusted its position on Syria. Not that tender feelings for Bashar al-Assad blazed there, but they clearly do not support the opposition with an increasing number Islamic radicals, including those of the Muslim Brotherhood – Mursi's political and force support.

The Minister also announced the revitalization of economic ties. "The Russian part has been preparing proposals including investment cooperation in energy and other areas of heavy industry, establishment of construction and transport equipment production facilities," Lavrov said. Alongside there are ideas of upgrading the facilities built way back in the USSR.

However, the negotiations between the military departments became a breakthrough. As reported by the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the parties agreed to hold a series of joint exercises against terrorism and piracy. According to Shoigu, the parties also agreed to intensify the exchange of delegations and enhance cooperation in military air and naval forces of the two countries. "We outlined plans for the next year and an outlook for the near future," said the Russian minister. In addition, the parties agreed that arrangements on military and military-technical cooperation would soon be put on paper.

There are two explanations given to the Egyptian policy. Either Cairo in such a way decided to press on its main ally - the United States, to induce it to unfreeze the military and economic assistance from international financial institutions. Or it seriously decided to shift to Moscow which gradually restores its reputation in the Middle East.

Indeed, both Egyptian politicians and street protesters directly accuse the U.S. administration of betraying the secular authorities and direct support, including financial, of the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other hand, after Mursi's removal from power by the army on July 3, the Obama administration announced the suspension of heavy weapons and fighter jets supplies, financial military aid to Egypt, as well as the abolition of annual joint military exercises. The official reason for the freezing of military assistance is the escalation of tensions in Egypt and the need for the formation of the country's "inclusive, democratically elected government through free and fair elections."

Besides, the new Egyptian authorities apparently noticed that the two meetings between Vladimir Putin and Mohammed Mursi in the first half of this year at the BRICS summit in South Africa and in Sochi failed. Russia was not tempted by the talks about revival of economic relations and joint development of uranium deposits and refused to provide loans to the Islamists. The question was about $ 2 billion.

"Our people have suffered from the failed attempt to build a relationship exclusively with the U.S. that until the last minute did not want to admit our last revolution real, but called it a military coup. But we have a successful experience of building relationships with Russia which we want to restore," said the head of the New Egypt party, General Mohammed Nabil Daabs.

If so, could the U.S. monopoly position in the largest and most authoritative country of the Arab world, which has the main route from Asia to Europe in its territory - the Suez Canal, come to an end? Its monopoly could, but its influence is highly unlikely to disperse.

Neither Moscow nor Cairo plan to go back to the Soviet times yet. "Our people have long lasting, stretching back into history ties of friendship and mutually respectful cooperation which in recent years has reached a strategic level," Lavrov said in Cairo, but repeated Russia's foreign policy main mantra, "We are not friends against someone."

The Egyptians have a similar position. "The fact that we have opened the door for Russia does not mean that we have closed it for the United States. On the contrary, we want to work with everyone," emphasizes Nabil Daabs.

According to the Chairman of the Russian Society of Friendship and Cooperation with the Arab countries Vyacheslav Matuzov, restoration of bilateral relations is a step in the direction of a separate, independent political platform of Arab States, "I think that we can talk about Egypt trying to consolidate the Arab world again on the basis of the financial might of the Persian Gulf countries, and Arab states. And to develop new principles of the so-called Arab unity, new principles of the Arabs' role in the world politics on this basis."

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