Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has supported the Egyptian army chief’s bid for president even as the two countries agreed to rebuild close defence and economic ties that bound them four decades ago.
Mr Putin wished Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi victory in Egypt’s presidential elections later this year.
“I know that you, Mr Defence Minister, have decided to run for President of Egypt,” Mr Putin said receiving Field Marshall el-Sissi and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy at his country residence near Moscow on Thursday. “It's a very responsible decision... I wish you success both from myself personally and from the Russian people.”
El-Sissi is expected to officially declare his candidacy shortly.
The Egyptian ministers arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for a second 2+2 meeting with their Russian counterparts. The first meeting took place in November.
Speaking after the meeting Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the sides “agreed to speed up drafting of documents that would give an additional impulse to our military and military-technical cooperation.”
A report on the Egypt Independent news website earlier this week quoted “a senior official source” as saying that Egypt had finalised a $2 billion arms deal with Russia.
Russia experts said Egypt was eyeing Russian-made air defence systems, fighter jets, helicopter gunships and warships worth $4 billion. According to Arab media, the bill will be footed by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said he and his Egyptian counterpart discussed possibilities for joint military exercises and training of Egyptian officers in Russian military academies.
“We also discussed the ways of expanding co-operation between our air forces and navies,” Mr Shoigu said.
A joint statement on the Russian-Egyptian 2+2 talks showed that the two countries have a similar perception on the situation in the Middle East, including Syria and Libya.
A renaissance in Russian-Egyptian relations, which stagnated after President Anwar Sadat broke with Moscow in the 1970s, comes as Cairo’s ties with the United States soured following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsy. By contrast, Russia’s popularity is on the upsurge in the Middle East after it averted a U.S. military strike against Syria.