Putin seeks to expand Russian influence in Egypt visit

Experts say trip designed to show that Russian president, a key backer of Sisi, is not isolated amid Ukraine crisis.

Putin Sisi
Putin was one of the first leaders to endorse Sisi's presidential bid [Reuters]

Russia’s president has arrived in the Egyptian capital as Moscow looks to expand its reach in the Arab world’s most populous country at a time when Cairo-Washington ties remain frayed.

President Vladimir Putin met his counterpart, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday, where the two leaders held talks for half an hour, officials said.

Sisi’s office earlier said that both leaders would attend a ceremony on Tuesday where several agreements would be signed, although it did not elaborate on the nature of the agreements.

Both countries have signaled a desire to expand ties after Sisi visited Russia last August amid deteriorating relations with Washington.

Following those talks, Putin said they agreed to boost trade and military cooperation, and in March, Russia began supplying weapons to Egypt after signing a memorandum.

Commercial agreements are also expected on Putin’s two-day visit, including a likely deal between Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya and Egypt’s state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.

A key non-Arab backer of Sisi, experts say Putin’s visit is also aimed at showing he is not isolated internationally despite the crisis in Ukraine.

“Putin continues to take advantage of ambiguity and contradictions in Western policies toward the Middle East,” Anna Borshchevskaya of The Washington Institute For Near East Policy said.

As long as Washington criticises “Egypt’s democratic backslide… it keeps open the door for Putin… to gain influence in Egypt at the expense of US interests,” she said.

The Kremlin said in a statement last week that Putin and Sisi would discuss the situation in Iraq, Syria and Libya; as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Source: News Agencies