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Putin, Egyptian Leader Discuss Increasing Arms Sales, Direct Air Links

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi (right) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Cairo last year.

Egypt's president urged Russia to resume direct flights to Egyptian resorts even as the Kremlin urged Egypt to purchase more Russian arms during bilateral talks in Moscow on October 16.

Russia suspended direct flights to Egypt in November 2015 after a bomb planted by an Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State extremist group brought a Russian passenger plane down over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board.

Flights between Moscow and Cairo resumed in April after Egyptian officials fortified their capital's airport security, but talks about restoring direct air travel from Russian cities to Egypt's Red Sea resorts have not produced an agreement.

Addressing the Russian parliament's upper house in Moscow on October 16, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi emphasized that restoring the flights was essential for Egypt's tourism industry.

After meeting with Russian lawmakers and cabinet ministers in Moscow, el-Sissi met over dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he was offered a presentation of weapons the Kremlin hopes Egypt might buy.

Egypt has signed deals to buy billions of dollars' worth of Russian weapons, including fighter jets and assault helicopters. When Putin visited Cairo last December, officials also signed a deal for Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Dabaa.

The two leaders have developed a close personal rapport and have sought to expand bilateral ties, which have strengthened considerably over the past few years.

El-Sissi is on his fourth trip to Russia since taking office in 2014, and Putin visited Egypt in 2015 and 2017.

Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters in Moscow that the two presidents at their dinner were to discuss implementation of the nuclear plant contract, as well as prospects for the resumption of direct Aeroflot flights to the Red Sea resorts and other issues.

He said that el-Sissi was to be offered a presentation of Russian weapons, including those which Egypt has expressed interest in buying.

Ushakov noted that bilateral trade rose by 62 percent last year, reaching $6.7 billion, and continued to expand at a swift pace this year.

Russian grain exports currently account for about 70 percent of Egypt's needs, he said.

Ushakov added that Putin and el-Sissi were to discuss international issues, focusing on the situations in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and the Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

Following broader talks on October 16, the two presidents are set to sign a comprehensive strategic partnership treaty that would further boost Russian-Egyptian ties, Ushakov said.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and Interfax