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Vladimir Putin heading to Egypt to cement new alliance

Moscow’s burgeoning ties with Cairo include a deal for the Russian air force to use Egyptian bases

(Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) – Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Egypt on December 11 to discuss expanding ties between the two countries.

The Egyptian presidency said on December 7 that Putin will hold talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, on ways to “further advancing frameworks of bilateral cooperation across various areas, particularly political, economic, and trade relations.”

“The visit comes within the framework of the two countries’ commitment to strengthening the historic and strategic relations between them,” a statement said.

The Kremlin said the two presidents will also discuss issues related to stability and security in the Middle East and North Africa.

Putin visited Egypt in February 2015, and Sisi met with him in Moscow six months later.

But Russia suspended commercial flights with Egypt after a Russian passenger plane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board, mostly Russian tourists.

The downing was claimed by an affiliate of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Russian and Egyptian officials have held talks on boosting airport security and resuming air travel, but no deal has been reached so far.

However, the Russian government announced last week that Moscow and Cairo have drafted an agreement to allow each country’s military to use the other’s air bases.

On a visit to Cairo on November 29, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu praised what he called the “positive dynamics in the military-technical sphere” and emphasized the need to strengthen cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Cairo has also signed an agreement with Moscow to build and finance Egypt’s first nuclear power plant.

Russia raised its profile in the Middle East in September 2015, when it launched an air campaign to bolster embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war.

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