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Article by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russia and Egypt: Friendship and Cooperation Tested by Time, published in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram on October 13, 2018

16-10-2018, 13:18

This year we mark the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Egypt. This anniversary has ushered in a new, very important stage in our peoples’ relations, deeply rooted in the past.

Way back in the 15th-17th centuries, Russian travelers who went to the Middle East on business or made a pilgrimage to holy places visited Egypt in order to see the monuments of world culture and learn more about the everyday life of the Egyptians.

The 19th century was a time of rapidly developing trade and economic exchanges. Russia exported to Egypt timber and agricultural produce mainly in exchange for cotton. Regular steamship navigation between Odessa and Alexandria made commerce even brisker. By the end of the century, Russian consular agencies operated in Cairo, Alexandria, Port-Said and Suez and consular agents worked in Luxor, Asyut, El Minya and other cities.

The “land of pyramids” drew great interest among the Russian public, writers and scholars, including such masters of world literature as Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov. The second half of the 19th century saw the inception of Russian Egyptology with Vladimir Golenishchev being one of its pillars. The Egyptian Hall of the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum in Moscow displays the near complete personal collection of that outstanding scholar. Egypt became home to many Russian emigrants who by some turn of fate had to leave their homeland in the 1920s.

Cairo’s declaration of independence in 1923 opened a new page in the many-century chronicle of Russian-Egyptian relations. On August 26, 1943 – at the height of WWII – diplomatic relations were established. And the first agreement on economic cooperation was concluded as soon as in 1948.

Our peoples joined efforts for the sake of the lofty ideals of peace, freedom, truth and justice on many occasions. We stood shoulder to shoulder during the Suez crisis in 1956. We were together during the Six-Day War in 1967 when the Soviet Union took exhaustive measures to reinforce Egypt’s defence potential.

It was at that time when new long-term forms of economic cooperation were developed. Their symbols are the construction of the high-altitude Aswan Dam, the Helwan steelworks and the Nag Hammadi aluminum smelter. Thousands of specialists were trained in a multitude of vocational centres and medical establishments opened in Egypt. Cultural and scientific ties gained ground. We are rightly proud of those common achievements.

The experience of fruitful joint work and the reliance on friendship, trust, mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests form the solid basis of our relations, which have reached the level of all-round partnership and strategic cooperation.

Our political dialogue is making great strides. Trade – which has exceeded the $6.5 billion mark – keeps on growing. The implementation of such major projects as the construction of the Russian-model nuclear power station in El Dabaa and the building of an industrial area in the vicinity of Suez has begun.

Our cooperation in the military and military-technical areas enables the Egyptian armed forces and law enforcement authorities to counter the terrorist threat more effectively. New forms of cooperation in this sphere are successfully mastered: joint antiterrorist exercises of the two countries’ airborne troops, Defenders of Friendship 2016 and Defenders of Friendship 2017, were conducted in Egypt in October 2016 and in Russia in September 2017.

Our parliaments, ministries and departments are working hand in glove. The legal framework is being improved. The activity of the intergovernmental commissions on trade, economic and military-technical cooperation deserves praise.

We are interested in expanding cultural ties and contacts between people. Implementation of this task will only benefit from the decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin – adopted during his visit to Cairo in December 2017 – to resume direct flights between our capitals that were suspended in October 2015 after the terrorist attack on board a Russian plane flying over the Sinai Peninsula. It is important today to continue joint efforts aimed at increasing security for the citizens of our countries, including on air transport. I am sure that it will lead tourism progress to a new stage.

The Russian-Egyptian dialogue in the international arena is based on our commitment to the development of a more just and democratic polycentric world order relying on the fundamental rules of international communication enshrined in the UN Charter. Moscow and Cairo are consistent in advocating for the settlement of numerous crises and conflicts solely by political and diplomatic methods, uniting the international community in combatting terrorism and extremism, and strengthening the nonproliferation regime for weapons of mass destruction. On our part, we are prepared for greater coordination on a variety of multilateral platforms, primarily for the sake of maintaining peace and security in the Middle East and ensuring the right of the peoples in the region to independently decide their own destiny.

Thus, all of the above make it possible to break new ground in the comprehensive partnership of Russia and Egypt for the prosperity of our citizens and maintaining global and regional stability. We will continue to work on this noble task together with our Egyptian friends.

  • Category: Minister S.Lavrov
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