Five 'messages' in Al-Sisi's visit to Russia: Analysts

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A recent visit by Egypt's army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to Russia has carried five

A recent visit by Egypt's army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to Russia has carried five "messages" to stakeholders in Egypt and abroad, analysts opine.

By Hagar al-Dosoki

CAIRO - A recent visit by Egypt's army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to Russia has carried five "messages" to stakeholders in Egypt and abroad, analysts opine.

"The visit shows that the incumbent authorities are capable of pursuing a balanced international policy and staying away from solely relying on its relationship with Washington," Mounzer Sleiman, the director of the Washington-based think tank Center for American and Arab Studies, told Anadolu Agency.

Al-Sisi, who is seen as the driving force of the July 3 ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi, concluded a two-day visit to Russia late Thursday.

The visit, Sleiman said, also sends the message that "Egypt wants to diversify the sources of its military equipment".

Egypt depended on US-made tanks, armored vehicles, fighter jets and other equipment for its army for decades since the populous Arab country signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1978.

Military relations between Cairo and Washington, however, started to turn tense in 2011 when Egypt cracked down on a group of local and international democracy promotion groups, including US groups, detaining some of their workers.

Washington held back the deliveries of important military equipment and slashed a sizeable amount of the annual cash aid it gives to Egypt following Morsi's overthrow last summer.

Sleiman opines that the visit was also meant to put some international light on al-Sisi before his expected bid to run in Egypt's upcoming presidential election.

Extremely popular at the local level, al-Sisi has not said whether or not he will run for president.

However, former presidential contender Amr Moussa said a few days ago that the army chief had decided to run in the election.

Mokhtar Ghobashi, the deputy head of local think tank Arab Center for Political and Strategic Studies, describes al-Sisi's visit to Russia as an Egyptian "maneuver with Washington.

"It sends the message that Egypt is able to find an alternative if the US rejected al-Sisi's presidential candidacy or tried to pressure Egypt on democracy and human rights record," he said.

"Russia also wants to win Egypt to its side as an ally to guarantee its strategic interests inside Syria by at least neutralizing Egypt," Gobashi told AA.

He, however, said the Egyptian army depends heavily on US weapons and that its new arms' deal with Russia is a mere "strategic maneuver".

The expert believes that Egypt just wants to threaten the US administration that it can find an alternative for it.

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