Russia, Egypt locked in talks on military collaboration
The defence ministers of Russia and Egypt are locked in discussions on military collaboration between their countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday during a landmark visit to Cairo.
Lavrov and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu are leading a high level Russian delegation to Cairo on a visit that comes in the wake of a diplomatic spat between Egypt and the United States.
Shoigu and "his counterpart (General Abdel Fattah al-) Sisi talked on military collaboration" between the two nations, Lavrov said at a press conference in Cairo, without elaborating.
Sisi, who is both defence minister and army chief, led a military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, after which he installed an interim government and promised new elections.
Lavrov, at the joint press conference with Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy, said talks between the two sides had also touched on boosting economic and trade ties.
Fahmy said that "bilateral ties between Russia and Egypt are old, in particular in military areas, and this was discussed by the Russian defence minister with his Egyptian counterpart yesterday".
Lavrov declined to be drawn into commenting on political developments in Egypt, where the army-installed government has launched a massive crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement and put most of its leaders, including Morsi himself, on trial.
"Russia is against any foreign intervention in internal affairs and we respect Egypt's sovereignty and the rights of Egyptian people to determine their future," he said.
The latest talks are the first at such a high level between the two countries "in the history of our friendly relations," Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said last week.
Lukashevich had said the discussions would touch on "military and technical cooperation" -- a Russian euphemism for arms sales -- as well as political and economic ties.
Egypt had close ties with Russia until several years before president Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979, bringing in roughly $1.3 billion in yearly US military aid over the subsequent decades.
Diplomatic ties between Egypt and the United States soured after Washington suspended some of its military aid to Cairo after Morsi's ouster.
Since then Egypt has taken a more "independent" tack and broadened its foreign policy, Fahmy told AFP in an interview on Saturday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to rekindle the relations between the two countries during a visit to Cairo this month -- his first to the country since the ouster of Morsi.
"It does not mean everything has been resolved. It does not mean there won't be hiccups in the relationship in the future," Fahmy said after Kerry's visit.
© 2013 AFP