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Cairo prepares for 'huge step' in relations with Russia - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) makes his way to a meeting during the third day of closed-door nuclear talks at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, November 9, 2013. (REUTERS/Jean-Christophe Bott/Pool)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) makes his way to a meeting during the third day of closed-door nuclear talks at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, November 9, 2013. (REUTERS/Jean-Christophe Bott/Pool)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Officials in Cairo have confirmed that the government is working on improving relations with Russia, but said this was not at the expense of relations with other countries. This follows confirmation of a planned visit by a high-ranking Russian delegation to Cairo, which will take place on Wednesday.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Badr Abdelati told Asharq Al-Awsat that “It is true, there are plans for strong relations with Russia, but not at the expense of our relations with any other party,” in reference to the United States, which provides Cairo with an annual aid package worth over USD 1 billion, most of which goes to the armed forces.

The Russian delegation which is due to arrive on Wednesday will include Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. The delegation will hold meetings with senior Egyptian leaders.

Abdelati denied press reports that Cairo’s improved relations with Russia came at the expense of its relations with Washington, and said: “We do not replace one party with another, but work to provide alternatives to serve Egyptian national interests.”

“We want more partners and we want more friends,” he added.

In response to a question on whether this was a move to more dependence on Russian arms, Abdelati said “we will pursue whatever serves the national interest of Egypt,” adding that Egypt had previously announced its intention to diversify its options and look for alternatives.

Abdelati said: “We have strong relations with the United States and we will work on strengthening these relations further as long as there is desire [to do so] from the American side. We are also working on strengthening relations in security, political, economic, trade and tourism fields with the Russia Federation and with other nations such as India, China, Brazil and others.”

The Russian delegation’s visit is expected to last two days and will include meetings with senior officials such as defense minister and deputy prime minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, interim President Adly Mansour and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi. Reports leaked by sources close to the Egyptian government have said the two sides will discuss the possibility of purchasing Russian arms and the renovation of the Aswan High Dam electricity generators, at a cost of USD 4 billion.