Lavrov praises Egypt’s 'balanced stance' after FM Shoukry delivers Blinken message on Ukraine crisis

Ahram Online , Tuesday 31 Jan 2023

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised on Tuesday Egypt's stance towards the Ukrainian crisis as one that is "based in history" and "balanced" after he received a message from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the issue that was delivered by Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

Sameh Shoukry
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry hold a joint press conference following their talks in Moscow on January 31, 2023. AP


In a joint press conference with the Egyptian foreign minister in Moscow, Lavrov said that the message he received from Blinken, which asked that “Russia should stop these actions in order for negotiations to succeed," did not amount to "a serious proposal."

"We are open to any serious proposal for a settlement in Ukraine. But, I emphasise: the word 'serious' means it includes all aspects of the issue," Lavrov said.

Shoukry's visit to Moscow came immediately following his meeting with Secretary Blinken  on Monday during his a two-day visit to Cairo in the first leg of his Middle East tour.

Lavrov added that Blinken’s message was both "incomplete" and does not correspond with the pronounced western positions on the Ukraine crisis as evidenced by the comments delivered by the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg in South Korea on Monday.

Lavrov said that Stoltenberg comments in South Korea that "Russia would have to be defeated in Ukraine and that the West would not allow Ukraine to lose because that would mean Europe and the world lose" show that "NATO has taken on the responsibility of defeating Russia on behalf of the world."

"These [comments] are not just about Ukraine nor about the Kyiv regime, which does not enjoy any independence. They reflect submission to the dictates of the US," Lavrov said.

He called on Blinken to send "a complete message" in his demand for a Russian exit from Ukraine.

Lavrov said that he briefed Shoukry with detailed information about the situation in Ukraine.

"The Western powers that are fueling the conflict in Ukraine," Lavrov said during the presser.

From his side, Shoukry said he discussed the Ukrainian crisis with Lavrov and listened to the Russian vision regarding the crisis.

The Egyptian FM stressed in his remarks during the presser the need to agree on a political and diplomatic framework that would end the military conflict in Ukraine in a way that meets the interests of all parties.

He also stressed that "Egypt will continue its efforts in seeking diplomatic solutions to this crisis."

Palestine, Libya and Syria

During the press conference, both Shoukry and Lavrov said that they have tackled  various regional files during their meeting, including the Palestinian issue and the developments in both Libya and Syria.

The foreign ministers agreed on the need to resume the activities of the Quartet, which was set up in 2002 comprising the United Nations, the European Union, the United State and Russia, to mediate Middle East peace negotiations and support Palestinian economic development and institution-building in preparation for eventual statehood. 

Lavrov said that the agreement to resume the Quartet aims to promote cooperation between the Quartet and the Arab League States. It also aims to reach a solution that contributes to easing tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Lavrov added that Russia is worried about the growing escalations in the Palestinian territories and that it supports initiating negotiations to reach a comprehensive solution.

Shoukry, on his side, stated that both he and Lavrov emphasised the need to reach a settlement in the Palestinian territories, adding that "Egypt is keen on the stability, security and development of the region."

Speaking of the Russian role, Shoukry said that "Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and a member of the International Quartet, and has always coordinated with Egypt in order to advance the settlement in the Palestinian territories and end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

Shoukry added that Egypt looks forward to its joint effort with Russia to take Palestine and Israel out of the current cycle of conflict and escalation which threatens stability in the region and leads to extremist tendencies.

He said that talks with his Russian counterpart emphasised respect for state institutions in Libya and the need to respect the sovereignty of the Libyan people.

Shoukry said that both Lavrov and he discussed the steps being taken to restore legitimacy – as represented by the Libyan institutions and the resolutions of the 2015 Skhirat Agreement – in Libya as the main way to resolve the Libyan crisis.  

A Libyan-Libyan solution must be reached to end the [Libyan] crisis and to end the presence of foreign forces and militias, said Shoukry, adding that Egypt will continue to move forward with its efforts  to prevent the return of military confrontations.

Shoukry said that Egypt has a vested interest in the security and stability of Libya given the close neighbourly relations between the Egyptian and Libyan peoples. He added that Egypt and Libya share mutual interests, and that Egypt supports Libya in matters of national security and combating terrorism.

Shoukry also revealed that he and Lavrov stressed the importance of preserving the territorial integrity of Syria.

"We stressed the importance of preserving the unity of the Syrian territories and Syrian sovereignty, and the absence of foreign forces and military actions that are not compatible with the resolutions of international legitimacy, and we will communicate with the UN envoy to implement Resolution No. 2254 of the Security Council, in order to preserve the territorial integrity of Syria and its sovereignty over all its lands," Shoukry said.

 Resolution No. 2254 calls for ceasefire across all of Syria as well as for free and fair elections to be held under UN supervision. According to the resolution, the political transition would be Syrian-led. 

Developing bilateral relations

During the press conference, Shoukry expressed his appreciation of the 80 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, beginning in 1943, saying "it is a historical relationship based on a stable and solid foundation of mutual respect."

Shoukry said the Egyptian-Russian trade relations are diverse and both nations seek to find mechanisms to benefit from and develop this relationship – including via implementing economic development ventures – in a way that serves the interests of the two countries’ peoples.

"We will pursue our close communication with Russia and pursue the close coordination and joint work on the basis of common interests and the extended history that prepares the ground for this relationship," Shoukry added.

Trade exchange between Egypt and Russia stood at $6 billion, said Lavrov, stressing "we are looking forward to increasing this figure."

Egyptian-Russian trade exchange increased by 5.1 percent in 2021 to reach $4.7 billion, compared $4.5 billion in 2020, as per previous remarks by former Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry Nevine Gamea.

Russia's top diplomat also expressed his country's hope to explore "new and broader" areas of cooperation with Egypt, referring to the role of the Egyptian-Russian committee, which is scheduled to be held in Cairo in the coming months.

Lavrov said that the two countries agreed to cooperate in many fields, including industrial, military and technical spheres.

For his part, Shoukry said trade exchange with Russia has been on the rise, spotlighting wheat imports, which he said "is one of the most main elements of the relationship between Egypt and Russia."

"Egypt is the largest importer of wheat and grains in the world and hence it is a strategic commodity as the Egyptian people rely it and so [such a commodity] represents food security for them," he added.

Egypt relies heavily on wheat for making bread, a main staple of most Egyptians’ daily diet.

Egyptians consume almost 100 billion loaves of bread annually, made with around 18 million tons of wheat, according to government officials.

Ahead of the nearly-year long Russian-Ukrainian war, Cairo relied on both nations for 80 percent of its imported wheat.

These imports have been affected by the supply chain disruption resulting from the war, with Egypt seeking to increase local wheat production and also seek new international wheat sources.

However, Egypt has also in recent months sourced wheat shipments from Moscow.

"We are taking all measures and mechanisms to sustain the relationship between the two countries in this regard, not only to preserve these imports, but also to expand the area of trade exchange in all fields," Shoukry added.

Egypt is among the most popular destinations for Russian tourists.

EgyptAir, the country's flagship airline, as of 18 December 2022 increased its weekly flights from Cairo to Moscow from 11 to 14 flights.

The two countries are also cooperating in the construction of El-Dabaa plant, the country's first nuclear power plant, which is located in the northwestern governorate of Marsa Matrouh.

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