Egypt to Ask Russia for Oil, Gas, Grain Silo Help

Tuesday, 16 Apr 2013 05:30 AM


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CAIRO — Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi will seek oil, gas and silos for grain storage when he visits Russia this week in a bid to revive cooperation that flourished in the Soviet era, officials said.

The visit is the latest example Cairo's effort to forge what officials have described as a more balanced foreign policy following the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak, under whose rule Egypt became a staunch ally of the United States.

The official newspaper of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party said Morsi would travel to Moscow on Friday for talks with President Vladimir Putin on closer economic cooperation and efforts to end the civil war in Syria.

Egypt is seeking financial support, food, and energy supplies on concessionary terms from a range of friends and allies to ease an economic crisis that has deepened since the uprising that toppled Mubarak in 2011.

Morsi's top foreign affairs adviser, Essam al-Haddad, had three days of preparatory talks in Moscow last week and said in a statement he reached agreement on strengthening cooperation in the oil and gas industries.

They also agreed that Russian companies would participate in rail and metro projects, build wheat storage silos in Egypt and revive strategic industries in which the former Soviet Union played a key role such as steel, aluminum, turbines, and electricity, the statement said.

In the heyday of Soviet-Egyptian friendship in the 1950s and 1960s, Moscow helped build the vital Aswan Dam that controls the Nile River in Upper Egypt.

In a separate statement, Haddad said Egypt and Russia were keen to strengthen and develop relations that had been "slowed a little bit in previous periods."

It was part of Egypt's pursuit of a more balanced foreign policy based on "mutual respect and mutual interest," including closer ties with Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — the so-called BRICS group, he said.

Morsi has already visited India, China, and South Africa — and is due to visit Brazil in May.

Haddad said this would not substitute Egypt's existing relations, including with the United States — a major source of aid to Egypt, much of it military, since Cairo made peace with Israel in 1979.

The late President Anwar al-Sadat expelled Soviet military advisers in 1972 when he turned towards the West before embarking on the U.S.-backed peace process with Israel.

Egypt secured $5 billion euros in stopgap financial support last week from Arab allies Qatar and Libya.

However, talks with the International Monetary Fund on a $4.8 billion loan are dragging on without agreement because Cairo is balking at cutting costly fuel subsidies and raising sales taxes, diplomats said.

On Syria, Egypt is trying to broker a negotiated transition to a democratic government without President Bashar al-Assad, but Russia remains Syria's biggest arms supplier and diplomatic protector at the United Nations, vetoing Security Council resolutions that would sanction on Damascus.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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