Egypts interim president Adly Mansour, right, meets Nov. 14 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second from left, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Cairo. (Khaled Desouki / Getty Images)
MOSCOW — The head of Russia’s state industrial holding company said on Monday that Moscow was on the verge of reaching a landmark agreement to deliver air defense systems to Egypt’s army.
Rostec chief Sergey Chemezov’s comments came in the wake of a visit to Cairo last week by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu devoted to military and diplomatic ties.
Chemezov told Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency that “some contracts (with Egypt) have already been signed — particularly one concerning air defense systems.”
But he later clarified in remarks to the same news agency that while the deal’s framework had been agreed, the contract itself had not been signed because of questions about where Egypt was going to secure the funding.
“Because of arising funding problems, the Egyptian side is still discussing these contracts,” Chemezov said.
Moscow’s Vedomosti business daily reported on Friday that the deals under discussion were worth more than $2 billion and could be financed by Saudi Arabia.
Chemezov confirmed that Egypt’s new rulers were discussing financing options with their regional allies “and also want to ask Russia to extend them a corresponding loan.”
He did not say whether Russia was willing to provide Cairo the required assistance or explain what type of missiles the deal involved.
The Soviet Union was the main supplier of arms to Egypt in the 1960s and early 1970s. Cooperation between the two sides declined after Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty and Cairo began receiving generous US aid.
But Washington suspended some of its military aid to Egypt after the July ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, and Moscow has been keen to fill the resulting void.