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Al-Araby al-Jadeed/AFP

Egypt and Russia sign nuclear deal

Egypt is also set to join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 10 February, 2015

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Cairo officials rolled out the red carpet for Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the two countries bolster relations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up a visit aimed at boosting ties with Egypt on Tuesday, with Cairo and Moscow agreeing to build the Arab country's first nuclear power plant.

Putin's two-day visit came with Moscow seeking to strengthen relations with the most populous Arab country at a time when Cairo's alliance with Washington has frayed.

Putin's first visit to Cairo in a decade follows a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, whom the Russian leader met on his previous trip in 2005.

Experts say Putin's visit was also aimed at showing that he is not isolated internationally - despite the crisis in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Putin and Sisi made a brief statement to reporters after Russian and Egyptian officials signed a memorandum of understanding to build a nuclear power plant in Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast - Egypt's first such facility.

Egypt had taken steps in the early 1980s to launch a nuclear plant to produce electricity in Dabaa but it was shut down after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Putin and Sisi did not take any questions from reporters during their joint statement.

When the Russian leader arrived on Monday he held brief talks with Sisi and the two later attended a concert at the Opera House before dining in the capital's landmark Cairo Tower.

Kalashnikov gift

Putin also gave a Kalashnikov assault rifle to Sisi as a gift.

Putin was received with a guard of honour and a 21-gun salute, while posters of the Russian leader were plastered on Cairo's main roads greeting him in Russian, Arabic and English.

Russia hosted Sisi's predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, during his one-year presidency - despite having banned the Islamist's Muslim Brotherhood as a "terrorist group" in 2003.

Moscow was also one of the first countries to endorse Sisi's presidency last year.

Sisi visited Russia when he was defence minister soon after ousting Morsi - amid deteriorating relations with Washington - and he followed up with an August 2014 trip as president.

At their meeting last summer at Putin's summer residence in Sochi, the two are understood to have discussed Russia supplying weapons to Egypt, which is fighting armed groups on the Sinai peninsula.

Moscow has sought to secure a larger slice of the Egyptian arms market after Washington suspended some weapons deliveries in the immediate aftermath of Sisi's crackdown on Morsi supporters - a crackdown which saw hundreds of protesters killed in a matter of days by Egypt's security forces.

At the time, Russian media said the two sides were close to signing a $3 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, delivering Apache helicopter gunships to the regime.

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