By France 24,
EGYPTIAN President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced on Tuesday that Russia has agreed to help build the country’s first ever nuclear power plant, which will be located in the northwestern town of Dabaa.
Sisi’s announcement came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in the Egyptian capital Cairo for a two-day visit aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries.
The trip is Putin’s first to Egypt in a decade.
The foundations for the nuclear plant have already been laid in Dabaa, which lies on the Mediterranean coast. Ousted president Hosni Mubarak also envisioned a similar project in the town during the 1980s, but work was halted after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
A memorandum of understanding on the plant’s construction was signed in the presence of Sisi and Putin, before the two leaders made a brief statement to the press.
Putin’s visit to Cairo has been a cause for much fanfare. The Russian leader was welcomed on Monday with a guard of honour and a 21-gun salute, while posters of him were plastered along Cairo’s main roads.
After brief talks following his arrival, Putin and Sisi later attended a concert at the capital’s Opera House before dining at the landmark Cairo Tower.
Putin also gave Sisi a Kalashnikov assault rifle as a gift before wrapping up his visit.
Russia was one of the first countries to endorse Sisi’s presidency last year.
Sisi visited Russia when he was defence minister soon after ousting former president Mohammed Morsi – amid deteriorating relations with the United States – 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 discussed Russia supplying weapons to Egypt, which is fighting an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula that has killed scores of policemen and soldiers.
Russia has sought to secure a larger slice of the Egyptian arms market after the United States suspended some weapons deliveries in the immediate aftermath of Sisi’s crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
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.
The US, however, has since resumed its annual $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, also delivering Apache helicopter gunships to fight jihadists in Sinai.
Egypt’s ties with the United States still remain cooler than before Morsi’s ouster, with Washington criticising Sisi’s regime for repressing Islamist as well as secular dissent.
The US also regularly criticises the Egyptian judiciary for handing down lengthy prison sentences to Morsi supporters and secular activists, after often speedy trials.
“Putin continues to take advantage of ambiguity and contradictions in Western policies toward the Middle East,” said Anna Borshchevskaya of The Washington Institute For Near East Policy.
As long as the United States criticises “Egypt’s democratic backslide… it keeps open the door for Putin… to gain influence in Egypt at the expense of US interests,” said Borshchevskaya.