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Egypt close to $3 billion arms deal with Russia

A MiG-29 Fulcrum.Egypt is close to finalising a $3 billion agreement for Russian arms financed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates following a meeting between Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders met in Moscow on February 13. Shortly afterwards, Russian daily Vedomosti quoted two government sources as saying that contracts had been ‘initialled or signed’ for a variety of hardware, including MiG-29 fighter jets, Mi-35 attack helicopters, small arms and air defence systems.

In November last year it was reported that Egypt was seeking to purchase arms from Russia following a cut in US military aid to the country. According to Ruslan Pukhov, a member of the Russian Defence Ministry’s advisory board and head of the Russian Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), Egypt was looking to buy $2 billion worth of Russian weaponry.

In November a Russian military delegation headed by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Egypt for two-day talks on military-technical cooperation. The visit by the Russian delegation included officials from state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, which is seeking to sell MiG-29 fighters to the North African country. Pukhov told Bloomberg last year that Egypt was interested in purchasing 24 MiG-29M2 fighters worth around $1.7 billion. This model features radar absorbent materials, modern avionics and Russian or Western armament.

The Russian drive to sell arms to Egypt comes after the US government suspended some of its $1.3 billion in annual military aid following the ouster of President Mohamed Mursi by the military in July 2013. The aid cuts stopped the delivery of four F-16 fighters, ten Apache helicopters, M1 Abrams tank kits, Harpoon anti-ship missiles as well as $260 million in cash.

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