Russia, Egypt set to sign deal for nuclear plant, Jordan as leaders visit Moscow

Egypt's Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah, and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan are in Russia for talks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on August 26, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / POOL / ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on August 26, 2015.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi were set to sign a deal for the construction of a nuclear power plant at a meeting on Wednesday in Moscow, a source close to the negotiations said, according to a report by Russia’s state news agency, Sputnik International.
In June, Russia’s state-owned nuclear-energy company Rosatom delivered Sisi a proposal for the construction of the plant.
Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan are in Russia for meetings this week.
Sisi met with Abdullah in Moscow on Wednesday and discussed regional developments, Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported.
The Israel-Palestinian issue and terrorism in the Middle East would be the focus of their meeting, Putin said as talks began, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
“I dearly hope that in the course of your visit we will manage to talk not only on the economic issues – speaking of which I would mention that our bilateral trade increased by 86 percent over the last year – but we will also talk on the situation in the region in general, discuss the Palestinian-Israeli settlement, and the fight against terrorism,” the Russian president said.
The head of Russia’s state-nuclear company said on Tuesday that the terms for the construction of Jordan’s first nuclear power plant are expected to be clear by 2017, Sputnik reported.
In March, Moscow and Amman signed an agreement to construct two nuclear power plants in the country by 2022. Jordan would retain 51% ownership, Russia 49%.
Yuri Teper, a Russian expert from Ariel University, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the Egyptian deal has been propagated and publicized by Russian official media and top officials for some time, but the Egyptians have been much more cautious with their public comments.
“Right now, the only sources in Russia announcing the deal are governmental or government-affiliated media. Therefore, I would still be somewhat reserved in referencing this as a done deal.”
“Russians are known for making a lot of fuss about very little or unfinished deals, as happened with their energy deal with the Chinese,” said Teper, who is also a fellow at the Israeli Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
“This is important for their propaganda,” he added, “because it allows them to show they are not as isolated as the West wants them to be.” The high cost of the nuclear plant in Egypt could be funded by the Saudis, he asserted.
The nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran works in favor of the deal, as Sunni states fear the Shi’ite bomb, Teper continued.
Furthermore, because of the accord, Russia has become concerned about losing its influence with Iran, which it sees moving closer to the US and Europe.
US-Egypt relations have cooled since Sisi came to power, while those between Russia and Egypt have warmed.
Meanwhile, France is in talks to sell two Mistral helicopter carriers to Egypt after their sale to Russia was canceled earlier this month, two sources close to the matter said on Wednesday.
Cairo has sought to boost its military power in the face of an Islamist insurgency. A sale would also fit into France’s recent strategy of favoring predominantly Sunni Arab nations, both politically and commercially, over their Shi’ite rival Iran.
“There are indeed discussions that are relatively advanced to take the two Mistrals,” one French source close to the matter said.
The source said if there were a deal it would likely be financed in part by money from Gulf Arab states, which consider Sisi a bulwark against the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement.
A second French source confirmed the talks, but said the financing is unclear.
France, whose navy already operates three Mistral helicopter carrier warships, has no use for the two ships and will have to pay Russia some €1 billion ($1.14b.) for canceling the contract, the French government spokesman said on Wednesday.
The Mistral is known as the Swiss army knife of the French navy for its versatility. It can hold up to 16 helicopters and 1,000 troops.
Separately, Jordan’s King Abdullah told the Russian president on Tuesday that Moscow has a vital role to play bringing together rival sides in Syria to seek a solution to a war that has killed a quarter of a million people.
The two were meeting amid a renewed diplomatic push on the conflict in Syria, where fighting has intensified and where Islamic State now controls vast territory.
“We need to find a solution on Syria. Your role and the role of your country is vital in bringing together all the rival sides to a negotiating table towards a peace solution,” the king told Putin.
Russia has been a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the conflict.
Reuters contributed to this report.