Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said his country is prepared to back numerous projects in Egypt, including nuclear energy, as the two nations strengthen their bond.
Speaking on Tuesday to Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Lavrov described Egypt as a “major power” and an ally of Russia, noting that Russia is the largest “supplier” of both tourists and grain to the Arab World’s most populous country.
“We are friends with the Egyptian people and the Egyptian people are well-disposed to us,” said Lavrov. “Among other things, we have a large backlog— we are ready to aid in a variety of projects. In particular, they are going to develop nuclear energy, and we have a huge competitive position in this and other areas.”
Last week Egypt announced that it will begin tendering international bids in January for the building of its first nuclear power station near the coastal city of Dabaa on the Mediterranean Sea.
Spokesman for the Electricity Ministry Aktham Abouelela, described the planed station as “a pressurised water reactor with a capacity of 950 to 1650 megawatts.”
Lavrov’s comments come on the heels of last week’s visit of a Russian delegation to Egypt. Lavrov, accompanied by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, met with top-ranking Egyptian officials to discuss the nations’ strategic alliance and to seek investment opportunities. Russia also put a deal on the table to sell Egypt air defence systems and military helicopters worth a reported $2 billion.
In the interview, Larvov dismissed claims that Russia had plans to establish a naval military base in Egypt. Instead, he envisioned a facility where ships could refuel and pick up supplies to strengthen the Russian presence in the Mediterranean.
“We want to be in the Mediterranean Sea—for Russia it is important in terms of understanding what is happening there, and strengthening our position,” said Lavrov. “The Americans, the French and other countries have huge fleets there. The experts are just trying to make this kind of sensationalism.”
The US state department announced on 9 October that it would halt the delivery of large-scale military systems and cash assistance to Egypt’s government, pending “credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections”. The decision comes as part of “recalibrating” US aid to Egypt.
Both Lavrov and Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy denied that Russia was competing with the US for a stake in Middle Eastern influence via Egypt, a view common with analysts amongst the stir of the delegation’s visit.
“Russia is supposedly negotiating with Egypt in defiance of the US. But it cannot be in opposition to the US, because the Americans will not lose their influence,” said Lavrov. “The Egyptians are well aware of this themselves.”