Lavrov to Visit Mideast amid Crisis, during Military Operation in Libya

Note that Algeria has backed the Gaddafi forces while Egypt has sided with the rebels in Libya, going so far as to arm them. — Ed.

MOSCOW, March 20 (Itar-Tass) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov leaves for the Middle East on Sunday under the conditions of the political crisis in the region and the Western coalition’s military operations in Libya against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.  These problems will be in the focus of the talks the Russian minister will have in Egypt and Algeria.

According to observers, the choice of the countries for Lavrov’s Middle East tour is quite understandable.  Egypt is traditionally the most influential country in the Middle East and a longtime partner of Russia.  Besides, the minister will arrive in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak was ousted recently, right after the referendum on amendments to the constitution.  It is clear that the head of Russia’s diplomacy would like to see what is happening now in Egypt and to establish contacts with the new leadership of the country.

During the visit to Cairo, “there will be meetings with the chairman of the Supreme Council of the armed forces, Hussein Tantawi, and consultations with the Foreign Minister of Egypt, Nabil al-Arabi, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

“In the focus will be the recent developments in the Middle East and North African countries,” he said.  “The ministers will compare the assessments and are likely to work out some common approaches to this situation.”

“In this context, of course, issues of international assistance to Egypt will be discussed, Lukashevich noted.

With the proposal of Egypt’s leaders, it is planned to discuss the theme of development of bilateral cooperation for the present and the near future period, especially in the economic and trade area and tourism.

The tourism sector affected during the recent dramatic events is a painful subject for the Egyptian side, as the national economy and employment are largely dependent on this area.  The Egyptian Minister of Tourism recently held a large scale campaign in Moscow to attract Russians to Egyptian resorts.  Observers hope that maybe during Lavrov’s visit to the country of pyramids, the Foreign Ministry will announce its advice for tourists not to visit Egypt is lifted.

In Cairo, Lavrov will also meet with the secretary-general of the League of Arab States to address key international and regional agenda issues, along with the main direction of advancement of bilateral cooperation with this influential Arab organisation, said the Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Of course, in the focus of attention will be the situation in Libya.  Russia has condemned the military operation undertaken by a number of NATO countries, and called for a dialogue of Libyans themselves to ensure a democratic future for the country.

On Tuesday, March 22, Lavrov will be in Algeria on a working visit.  He is scheduled to meet with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci.  Algeria is a country which has considerable authority and influence in the Arab world, in Africa, the Mediterranean and on the international scene.  Besides, Algeria is among the three countries along with India and China, with which Russia seriously develops military-technical cooperation.

“We intend to continue to coordinate with Algeria our approaches to key international problems,” said Lukashevich.  Along with some major world problems, the search will be also discussed for settlement of the known conflicts, in particular the Arab-Israeli and the Western Sahara problem.”  “A set of questions of bilateral relations is very extensive and includes cooperation in the areas of energy, infrastructure construction and high technologies.  Algeria for past several years has been among the three major partners of Russia on the African continent”, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman noted.

This article was first published by ITAR-TASS on 20 March 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.

| Print