Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 214

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev yesterday wound up an official visit to the Middle East which he suggested would re-invigorate military-technical cooperation between Russia and both Egypt and Syria. Sergeev met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on November 16 and held talks in Cairo with Egyptian military leaders as well. He said yesterday that the prospects for military cooperation between Egypt and Russia had improved. According to Russian military experts, Egypt is primarily interested in purchasing Russian armored vehicles, as well as artillery, patrol boats and communications technology. Sergeev suggested that the talks also focused on the repair and modernization of Egypt’s Soviet-made military hardware (Russian agencies, November 16-17).

Moscow was a major supplier of weaponry to Egypt through the 1960s. It would now like to reclaim some of that market. The two sides failed, however, to sign a memorandum on military-technical cooperation which was scheduled to be approved on November 16. Sergeev claimed that the delegations had decided to dispense with the framework agreement, to move directly toward talks on an intergovernmental accord and to practical cooperation in the area of military cooperation (Itar-Tass, November 17). Sergeev reportedly passed a message from President Boris Yeltsin to Mubarak during their meeting in Cairo. In addition to the talks on military cooperation, Sergeev’s stop in the Egyptian capital was reportedly intended to advance preparations for a planned visit by Yeltsin to Egypt next spring. Mubarak visited Moscow in September of last year.

During a visit to Damascus on November 15 Sergeev was equally optimistic about the potential for arms dealings between Russia and Syria. The Russian defense minister held talks with a number of Syrian government officials as well as with Syrian President Hafez Assad. Sergeev suggested that Syria might be interested in purchasing Russian anti-aircraft defense systems and in modernizing or upgrading its own Soviet-built military hardware (RIA, November 14).

Sergeev used his stops in both Damascus and Cairo to criticize the United States for its threats to bomb Iraq. He also called for a quick lifting of UN sanctions on Baghdad (Russian agencies, November 15-16).