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Moscow not seeking to replace 'any country' in Egypt: FM Lavrov

Russian foreign minister holds 'very fruitful' talks with Egyptian counterpart in Cairo, emphasises common views on Palestine and Syria

Zeinab El Gundy, Tony Gabriel, Bassem Aly, Thursday 14 Nov 2013
Fahmy and Lavrov held talks
Fahmy and Lavrov held talks on Thursday in Cairo (Photo: MENA)
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Russia is waiting to benefit from a return to stability in Egypt, the country's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

He made the comments at a press conference on Thursday following a meeting in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy.

Lavrov described the meeting as "very fruitful" and said collaboration between Cairo and Moscow had a long history going back to the 1950s.

He denied, however, that Russia was striving to replace "any country" - a reference to the US -  as Egypt's key strategic partner.

Fahmy confirmed that Egypt is not looking for a "substitute for anyone."

Lavrov announced there would be future talks on new joint projects in Egypt, as well the renewal of Soviet-era projects; but emphasised that "Russia respects Egypt and does not interfere in its internal affairs."

Fahmy explained that Egypt was seeking to "diversify its [foreign policy] options."

"I have visited Moscow," he said, "and we are today witnessing a historic visit by Russia's defence and foreign ministers to Egypt."

The visit is an "additional step to strengthening relations," Fahmy added, stating that Lavrov and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoygu would meet Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour and Defence Minister Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during the two-day visit.

Palestine, Syria, Iran

Moving on to regional issues, Fahmy and Lavrov announced a commonality of views on Palestine and Syria.

"Dialogue and cooperation" will open the way for achieving the interests of both sides, Fahmy said. "[For example], we both agree on having a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, and a political, not military, solution in Syria."

He added: "I told Lavrov about our ambitions for creating a region free of weapons of mass destruction. I even recalled UN Security Council resolution 687 of 1991 that tackled this issue in the aftermath of the Iraq-Kuwait war."

"Russia is interested in seeing Egypt play a leading role in the Middle East because it serves our own interests," Lavrov emphasised.

"We don't need to seek common ground over Palestine and Syria because we already have it," he added. "What we really seek is to unite our efforts on other issues such as Iraq and terrorism."

Lavrov warned that Russia would oppose the use of force in Syria, even via the UN Security Council. "Russia's position on Syria is known."

"The humanitarian situation in Syria is really tough, and we are offering humanitarian assistance to the states hosting large numbers of refugees in order to reduce the suffering of the Syrian people," he noted.

Moscow's top-diplomat praised US efforts to re-open peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, and referred to the Arab League's peace initiative as the basis for a comprehensive settlement.

Regarding Iran, Lavrov refused to give full details of ongoing talks between world powers and the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme.

However, he said he hoped the so-called P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – would finalise a deal with Iran based on a "shared suggestion."

"I recently had a phone call with US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande concerning Iran, but detailed information cannot be given until we finalise the talks," Lavrov concluded.

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