Sudan pledges to investigate killing of 2 protestors during peaceful sit-in    Grand Egyptian Museum finishes installing Tutankhamun's 3rd shrine    Egypt discovers several ancient tombs in Sohag's Al-Hamdiya necropolis    Egypt signs new gold exploration contract worth $5.2m    Development cooperation portfolio in Egypt's supply sector records $128.8m: Al-Mashat    Egypt scales up readiness of hospitals nationwide for Eid Al-Fitr holidays    BSH International reviews expansion strategy in Egyptian market    Arab League calls for ICC investigation into Israeli war crimes in Palestine    UN Security Council shirks responsibilities towards Palestine: Egypt's Shoukry    Israel continues targeting Gaza, Palestinian resistance responds with missiles    Egyptian hospitals in Sinai on alert amid Israeli aggression on Gaza    Egypt announces Thursday 1st day of Eid Al-Fitr    Nuweiba: Egypt's paradise of serenity    Global economic recovery to improve debt service coverage ratios: Moody's    Egypt's current account deficit jumps to $7.6 bln in 1H of FY2020/21: CBE    Egypt's trade deficit down 1.2% to $3.34bn in February 2021: CAPMAS    Egypt raises readiness at university hospitals for Eid Al-Fitr holidays    Egypt's Parliament discusses abolishing imprisonment for female debtors    India signs an agreement to buy 300,000 doses of Remdesivir from Eva Pharma    Egypt will locally manufacture first 2m Sinovac vaccine doses by June-end    2021 South East European Film Festival celebrates cinematic diversity of 18 countries    Turkey seeks to restore 'historic unity' with Egyptian people: Erdogan    Elneny's Arsenal targets 'remontada' in Europa League semi-finals    Zamalek eye return to victories at expense of Smouha in Egyptian Premier League    Al Ahly face injuries as they take on Al Ittihad Alexandria    Egypt buys 30 Rafale fighter jets from France    Direct flights between Russia and Egypt will resume in June, Ambassador    Egypt's Ahly is establishing a new stadium, expected to be 'sports complex'    Blinken presses Ethiopia's Abiy to ensure full withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray    Forces opposed to Somali president control parts of Mogadishu    Nine people executed in Egypt over Kerdasa police killings in 2013    UEFA investigating Ibrahimovic's alleged ties to betting company    61 doctors died from coronavirus since start of April: Egypt's medical syndicate    Egypt targets 5.6% inflation rate in FY2020/21, 6% in FY2021/22    Egypt allocates EGP 132 bln to modernise railway system: Transport minister    Real Madrid not thinking about any Super League sanctions: Zidane    Total declares force majeure on Mozambique LNG after attacks    All the winners at the 93rd Academy Awards    Egypt's Ahly granted approval to build new stadium on Cairo outskirts    Aswan Int'l Women's Film Festival dedicates 5th edition to Kawthar Heikal    BREAKING: Egypt's information minister Osama Heikal resigns amid parliamentary criticism    'War was not Egypt's aim, but peace was the ultimate goal,' Sisi says on Sinai Liberation Day anniversary    Factbox: Key nominations for the 2021 Academy Awards    Old Cairo's Al-Fustat will be revamped on Egyptian President's directives    Veteran Egyptian journalist Makram Mohamed Ahmed passes away at 86    Allianz Egypt partners with IGNITE to equip brand ambassadors for 2021 Olympics    Hassan Allam consortium wins contract to manage, operate Grand Egyptian Museum    Seasoned Egyptian screenwriter Wahid Hamed dies at 76    







Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.





Forging a stronger partnership
Published in Ahram Online on 13 - 04 - 2021

In a strong signal of Moscow's intention to play a greater role in the Middle East, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Cairo on Monday to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri.
Lavrov's visit to Cairo took place a day before his visit to Iran and soon after his diplomatic tour of the Gulf, in which he visited the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. It also took place against the backdrop of an extremely volatile Middle East.
The crisis over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the delicate negotiations over the Iranian nuclear programme, the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the armed conflicts in Syria and Libya, the precarious situation in Lebanon, and the fraught tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean are all aspects of the Middle Eastern powder keg that Egypt and Russia are eager to defuse as soon as possible.
Lavrov's visit to Cairo, his first since US President Joe Biden took office on 20 January, also comes at a time of an unprecedented spike in tensions between Moscow and Washington, and Biden has taken a much tougher stance towards Russian President Vladimir Putin than did former president Donald Trump.
The US Interim National Security Strategic Guidance Report that the Biden administration released last month identifies "growing rivalry with China, Russia, and other authoritarian states" as one of the US' main immediate challenges. Washington has threatened to broaden the scope of Western sanctions against Russia to include vital sectors such as banking and energy. It is also contemplating adding more individuals close to the Kremlin to its sanctions regime, perhaps even Putin himself.
Russian-Western tensions in general have been steadily rising due to recent developments in Ukraine and the imprisonment of the prominent Russian political activist Alexei Navalny. Western demands for Navalny's release have been met with Moscow's angry rejection of "unacceptable intervention" in its domestic affairs.
In this highly charged climate, Moscow hopes to rally friends and allies in the Middle East in preparation for a looming new cold war with the Biden administration. Russia has thus been engaging with all the countries in the region. It has increased its arms sales to Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, the UAE, and Turkey, and it has just signed a 25-year contract with Khartoum to build a naval base in Sudan that will be the second of its kind after the Russian naval facility in Tartus in Syria.
During his tour of the Gulf last month, Lavrov outlined a Russian vision for a collective security order in the northern Gulf, a vision that appears to have drawn on the outputs of a succession of visits by the UAE, Saudi, and Qatari foreign ministers to Moscow in December 2020 and January 2021.
As Lavrov's visit to Cairo this week suggests, Russia sees Egypt as a linchpin in the alliance it hopes to build. Egypt, for its part, has showed little enthusiasm for Washington's initiative calling for the creation of a Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) to counter the "Iranian threat". Announced in 2017, MESA was billed as a "security partnership" between the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — plus Jordan and Egypt. In 2019, Cairo notified the US officially that it was not interested in taking part in the initiative, nicknamed the "Arab NATO", because it felt the idea had not been thoroughly conceived and could risk an unwarranted increase in tensions with Iran.
This week's visit highlighted the opportunities that the Egyptian-Russian partnership will create to advance security, stability, and development in the region. The Egyptian foreign minister noted that Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council with extensive diplomatic resources, understands Egypt's position on the GERD and that Moscow has indicated that it is ready to continue to coordinate with Cairo to promote an agreement on it that would benefit all three parties, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
Shoukri added that "[Egypt] is counting on Russia's relations with Ethiopia to help achieve a binding agreement on the Renaissance Dam, especially now that the African Union negotiating track has stalled."
On another crucial Middle East issue, Lavrov's visit worked to enhance cooperation in helping the Palestinians to hold general elections on 22 May. Egypt also supports the new Russian peace initiative that Lavrov announced at the end of March. This proposes direct talks between the Palestinians and Israelis in a broader international mediating framework that would include, in addition to the Quartet of Russia, the US, the UN, and the EU, four Arab countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel, namely Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia would attend in its capacity as the author of the Arab Peace Initiative, which has been endorsed by the Security Council.
At another level, Lavrov's visit reaffirmed Egypt's and Russia's determination to forge ahead with agreed projects, such as the Dabaa nuclear electricity plant, the Russian industrial zone in the Suez Canal Economic Corridor, and deliveries of new railway cars to Egypt.
The forthcoming "2+2" talks attended by both the foreign and defence ministers from each side will flesh out further details and explore other areas of cooperation for the Egyptian-Russian partnership, which has become an important cornerstone of security, stability, and development in the Middle East. This partnership will likely deepen in the near future in view of the current US administration's inclination to brandish misleading slogans about spreading democracy, human rights, and liberalism across the world.

The writer is head of the International Studies Unit at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 April, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly


Clic here to read the story from its source.