Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Russia’s foothold in the Middle East is set to increase after Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev authorized a draft agreement with Egypt that will allow Moscow to use Egyptian air bases.
According to Russia’s TASS news agency, the directive signed by Medvedev endorsed the draft prepared by Russia’s Defense Ministry.
The extendable five-year agreement will allow warplanes from both countries to use the airspace and airfield infrastructures of the other, if needed. Both sides are required to give five days advance notice before doing so, however.
The arrangement does not apply to military aircraft that have long-range radar detection and control systems or military aircraft carrying dangerous goods, TASS said.
The agreement follows Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Cairo to take part in the fourth session of the Russia-Egypt Military Technical Cooperation Commission, where he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi.
Sisi has expanded military ties with Moscow, signing deals to buy fighter jets, 15 Ka-52 Alligator helicopters and other arms. In March 2015, Moscow and Cairo also signed a protocol on military cooperation and announced joint naval exercises.
In September, Egyptian paratroopers took part in a military exercise in Russia, where they honed their skills in landing, seizing and holding a mountain pass. It was the first time Egyptian troops trained on Russian soil.
The increased ties between the two countries followed the ouster of former president Muhammad Morsi, expanding further after the United States cut a significant amount of financial and military aid to Egypt.
Shoigu made his first official visit to Israel in October, meeting with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other senior defense officials.
Last week, Liberman noted the “massive” Russian presence in Syria as part of the reasoning behind his demand to increase the IDF budget by NIS 4.8 billion.
Moscow intervened in the Syrian conflict in September 2015, turning the tide in favor of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. Since then, it has been keen on expanding its presence in the Middle East.