Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 168

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak will pay a two-day visit to Moscow at the end of this month, it was announced yesterday in Cairo. According to Egypt’s ambassador to Russia, talks between the two sides will focus on bilateral relations, including economic ties, as well as on developments in the Middle East. With regard to the first set of issues, the diplomat said that at least three agreements involving trade and customs are expected to be signed during Mubarak’s visit. He added that the Egyptian side hopes in general to restore the close relations between the two countries that existed before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. On the subject of the Middle East peace process, Egyptian sources in Cairo suggested that Mubarak would look to enlist Russia in the effort to pressure Israel to "respect the right of Palestinian people to self-determination." (Russian agencies, September 10)

The announcement of Mubarak’s impending visit to Moscow came as U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright arrived in Israel yesterday to launch a high-profile trip through the region that is aimed at restarting the shattered peace process. Arab leaders accuse the U.S. of being too sympathetic to Israel — a perception that Albright sought yesterday to dispel — and the Mubarak visit is part of a broader effort to move the U.S. away from that position. Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov, himself a Middle East expert with long ties to a number of Arab leaders, has spoken in recent days of his support for Albright’s efforts. But there is little doubt that Moscow sees the breakdown of the peace process and the potential for worsening tensions between the U.S. and Israel’s neighbors as an opportunity to begin reclaiming some of the influence that it previously enjoyed in the region. On September 4 a Russian diplomat announced that the Kremlin would dispatch its own envoy to the Middle East this week, but there has been no word yet on his actual departure.

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