02/11/2015, 00.00
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Putin and al-Sisi sign agreements on nuclear energy, arms and security

Plans to build a nuclear power plant in Dabaa; arms sales amounting to 3 billion dollars; development of tourism; a Russian industrial zone in the region of the new Suez Canal. The alliance of Putin and al-Sisi in the fight against Islamic terrorism. The gift of a Kalashnikov.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his counterpart Abdelfattah al-Sisi have agreed to the construction of a nuclear facility and to strengthen economic relations in the arms trade and tourism.

During the two-day visit, which ended yesterday, Putin has sought to strengthen ties with the most populous Arab country, at a time when the US-Cairo alliance is at its' most fragile.

After the forced resignation of the Islamist President, Putin was among the first to support the victory of al-Sisi, who was criticized instead by the US for having ousted the "democratically" elected Islamist president.

Yesterday Putin and al-Sisi announced that they had signed an agreement to build a nuclear power plant in Dabaa, in northern Egypt, the first in the country. The idea of a nuclear power plant in Dabaa has been touted since the days of Hosni Mubarak, deposed in 2011.

Another idea that has been long in the pipeline is that of arms supplies to Egypt, especially after the United States suspended military supplies, following the fall of Morsi (2013).

Since then, Russia was close to signing a deal for  3 billion dollars for the supply of missiles and warplanes, including the Mig 29 and assault helicopters. Later, Washington resumed its annual aid to Egypt: 1.5 billion dollars, of which at least 1.2 go directly into the military coffers.

Even today, the US-Egypt relations remain lukewarm. Al-Sisi is much criticized for his repression against dissidents and Islamists. But much of the population supports the former general, seeing his crackdown as the only way to ensure the safety and improve the economy, undermined by the Arab Spring and Morsi's disastrous management.

In 2014 the commercial relations between Moscow and Cairo grew by 80%. In talks this week, Russia proposed strengthening tourism, as well as the construction of a Russian industrial zone in the region of the new Suez Canal.

Putin was greeted with great pomp and ceremony: honor guard, military salute, with roads paved with banners written in Russian and Arabic; a concert at the opera house. For Egypt the visit is important to show not that it is not totally dependent on the United States. At the same time, Moscow and Cairo expressed mutual support in their fight against Islamic extremism, in the name of security: Egypt faces the challenge of al Qaeda groups concentrated in the Sinai; Russia fears  the continuous growth of Islamic terrorism in Chechnya and the Caucasus regions. Both are determined to fight terrorism with force.

In this context, Putin's gift of a Kalashnikov to his host is quite significant.


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