Cairo, 21 Rabi’ul Akhir 1436/11 February 2015 (MINA) – President Abdul Fatah Al Sissi said on Tuesday that Cairo and Moscow had agreed plans to jointly build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant.
A memorandum of understanding to build the facility was signed by Egyptian and Russian officials during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the country, which began on Monday, Al Sissi said.
At a joint press conference with Putin, Al Sissi said the nuclear power plant would be built in Daba’a in northwest Egypt on the Mediterranean coast, Gulfnews quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
Egypt had laid the foundation for such a facility in Daba’a during the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, but work was halted due to disputes with local residents.
Putin held talks with his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Tuesday, as Moscow seeks to boost ties with a key Arab country whose alliance with Washington has frayed.
Putin is a key non-Arab backer of Al Sissi, who has faced US criticism for his deadly crackdown on opponents since he ousted Islamist leader Mohammad Mursi in July 2013.
Putin’s first visit in a decade to Cairo, where he arrived on Monday, also follows a 2011 uprising that toppled ex-strongman Hosni Mubarak, whom the Russian leader met on his previous trip in 2005.
Experts say Putin’s visit is also aimed at showing that he is not isolated internationally, despite the crisis in Ukraine.
After brief talks at the airport, the two leaders attended a concert at the Opera House before dining in the capital’s landmark Cairo Tower.
On Tuesday, they held formal talks at a presidential palace.
Host of agreements
Received with a guard of honour and a 21-gun salute, posters of the Russian leader were plastered on Cairo’s main roads greeting him in Russia, Arabic and English.
Officials said the two leaders were expected to sign a host of agreements.
“The leaders will pay special attention to ramping up trade and economic ties between the two countries,” the Kremlin said ahead of the visit.
Russia hosted Al Sissi’s predecessor Mursi during his one-year presidency, despite having banned the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist group” in 2003.
But Moscow was also one of the first countries to endorse Al Sissi’s presidency last year.
Al Sissi visited Russia when he was defence minister soon after ousting Mursi amid deteriorating relations with Washington, and he followed it up with an August 2014 trip as president.
At their meeting last summer at Putin’s summer residence in Sochi, the two discussed Russia supplying weapons to Egypt, which is fighting an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula that has killed scores of policemen and soldiers.
Moscow has sought to secure a larger slice of the Egyptian arms market after Washington suspended some weapons deliveries in the immediate aftermath of Al Sissi’s crackdown on Mursi supporters.
At the time, Russian media said the two sides were close to signing a $3-billion (Dh11 billion) deal for Moscow to supply missiles and warplanes, including MiG-29 fighters and attack helicopters.
However, Washington has since resumed its annual $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, also delivering Apache helicopter gunships to fight militants in Sinai.
Ties still remain cooler than before Mursi’s ouster, with Washington criticising Al Sissi’s regime for repressing Islamist as well as secular dissent.(T/P009/P3)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)