Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met in Cairo on Monday to attend the signing of an agreement officially launching work on Egypt's first-ever nuclear power plant at Dabaa on the north coast.
The Egyptian president said that both leaders further discussed ways to boost economic ties, including efforts to attract Russian investments to the Egyptian Suez Canal Economic Zone and to establish a Russian free-trade zone.
“We have agreed on mandating our ministers to follow up with such issues and resolve any obstacles to the finalizing of projects that would be executed in the near future, in line with the spirit of coordination that has distinguished recent negotiations on constructing the Dabaa nuclear plant,” El-Sisi said.
Putin said that "upon the completion of the Dabaa project, Egypt will not only benefit from having a nuclear plant but also from gaining the latest and safest technology of nuclear energy."
Egypt's Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker and Alexi Likhatchev, the Director General of Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, have signed the document to officially commence the project.
The nuclear plant, which will cost up to $21 billion, is expected to be completed by 2028-2029, Rosatom announced on Monday, according to Reuters.
Russia will provide a loan that will cover 85 percent of the construction costs, Likhachyov said.
According to the initial agreement signed by the two countries in 2015, Russia will build four reactors, each producing 1,200 megawatts of electricity, generating a total output of 4,800 megawatts.
The company will service the plant’s four reactors for 60 years, Likhachyov added.
El-Sisi and Putin held talks at the palace in Heliopolis shortly after the latter arrived in Cairo earlier on Monday.
After the signing ceremony, El-Sisi and Putin announced in the results of their talks on bilateral economic, military and political relations; the war against terrorism; the resumption of Russian flights to Egypt; and regional crises including Palestine, Libya and Syria at the presidential palace in Cairo on Monday afternoon.
Economic and Security Cooperation
Putin said that economic cooperation with Egypt "is taking on new dynamics in trade and economic exchange."
"During the past nine months, economic exchange between both countries have reached more than $4 billion," the Russian president stated.
Putin also said he agreed with the Egyptian president on the necessity of continuing negotiations on the establishing of the free-trade zone between Egypt and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.
On the resumption of Russian flights to Egypt, Putin indicated positive developments in light of the Russian Security Agency report on Egyptian security measures at airports.
"Soon I will be signing a memo on the resumption of air flights to Egypt," the Russian president affirmed.
Russia suspended flights to Egypt in November 2015 after a Russian commercial flight crashed over Sinai shortly after taking off from Sharm El-Sheikh, killing all 224 people aboard.
Egypt has been implementing tighter security measures in its airports to meet Russian demands on security, with the aim of restoring Russian visitors to boost its tourism industry.
Russians make up the largest single tourist group in Egypt, contributing to about a fifth of foreign vacationers in the country as of 2015, according to official data.
Cooperation on regional matters
President Putin said he agreed with El-Sisi on the framework of cooperation between both countries in the near future, describing Egypt as the old and trustful partner of Russia in the Middle East and North Africa.
On the Palestinian situation, El-Sisi said that he asserted to Putin the importance of maintaining the legal status of Jerusalem in accordance with international accords, nearly a week after a US decision to recognize Jerusalem as a capital of Israel.
“We discussed the dangerous repercussions of such a decision on the security and stability of the region. I asserted to President Putin the importance of not complicating the situation in the region through measures that restrict the chances of peace in the region,” he said.
Putin expressed appreciation for the Egyptian role in sponsoring the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas groups.
The Russian president vowed during their discussion for the establishment of direct Palestinian-Israeli talks involving all aspects of the conflict, including the situation of Jerusalem.
El-Sisi also said that the situations in Syria and Libya was on the table, with both presidents discussing ways of ensuring the achievement of a political settlement to both crises as soon as possible.
Regarding Syria, Putin said he demonstrated to President El-Sisi the results of his latest visit and meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Monday.
“On Syria, our visions matched on a number of political situations and we agreed to continue our joint work to lessen tensions as a preamble political negotiations,” the Egyptian president said.
He added that both sides agreed on supporting negotiations led by the UN envoy to Syria in order to reach a comprehensive political agreement that accomplishes the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and preserves the unity and territorial integrity of the country.
Regarding Libya, El-Sisi said the international community should come together to avoid any political or security vacuum. He also stressed his own country’s support for the political path sponsored by the UN envoy to Libya to end the transitional period and hold parliamentary and presidential elections in the country.
El-Sisi added that Cairo will continue with efforts to unify divided Libyan military institutions.
El-Sisi also noted that the two countries intended to increase cooperation on fighting terrorism.
Putin pointed out that his country is willing to boost assistance to Egypt in its war against terrorism in the coming period by enhancing military cooperation and the capabilities of the Egyptian Armed Forces.
According to El-Sisi, both leaders agreed on the necessity of countries preventing terrorists from passing through their territory.
“I agreed with President Putin on the importance of exchanging information between our involved agencies in combatting terrorism, especially when it comes to the movement of terrorists from politically unstable areas to other countries,” President El-Sisi said.