Russia's Putin receives extravagant welcome at Cairo palace

Ahram Online , Tuesday 10 Feb 2015

Putin is the first foreign president to be welcomed at Qasr El-Qobba since the Mubarak era

In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, left, exchanges an assault rifle with Russian President Vladimir Putin upon his arrival at the Cairo International Airport in Egypt, Monday, Feb. 9, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Russia's President Vladimir Putin was honoured at the presidential palace of Qasr El-Qobba, in east Cairo, on Tuesday, the second day of his first visit to Egypt in a decade.

During the visit, which aims at boosting bilateral relations between Russia and Egypt, Putin and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi are expected to discuss regional instabilities and possible trade deals.

Cairo has sought to strengthen its ties with Moscow, against the backdrop of strained ties with its long-time ally Washington since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. 

The US has on more than one occasion withheld parts of its $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt in objection to the toppling of Morsi, a president who was democratically elected to office in June 2012.

Egyptian media has hailed the visit as "historic."

Hundreds of coloured posters of Putin bearing the word "welcome" have lined the side of Cairo's main roads and bridges for the last few days.

A 21-gun salute and a military parade featuring officers on horseback greeted Putin, as he entered the vicinity of Qasr El-Qobba palace. A group of children, meanwhile, waved Russian and Egyptian flags and chanted "Sisi, Sisi, long live Egypt!"

Putin is the first president to be received at the 19th-century Qasr El-Qobba palace instead of the Itihadiya palace since the 2011 popular revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

The Russian head of state arrived in Cairo on Monday evening, and was welcomed by El-Sisi at the capital's airport, before being whisked off to the Cairo Opera house and Cairo Tower.

Putin last visited Egypt a decade ago in 2005, when Hosni Mubarak was president. El-Sisi visited Moscow twice over the past year, first as defence minister in February, then as president in August.

A month after Sisi's second visit, a preliminary arms deal worth $3.5 billion was reportedly reached between the two countries.

In an interview with state newspaper Al-Ahram, Putin said Russian-Egyptian relations are developing rapidly, as the volume of bilateral trade increased by almost half in 2014 compared to the previous year.

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