Russia's foreign minister Lavrov to visit Africa as Moscow seeks non-Western ties
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will begin an African tour in Egypt on Sunday, seeking to draw on demand for non-Western alliances as Moscow pushes back against international censure over the war in Ukraine.
The top Russian landed in Cairo late on Saturday, the first leg of his Africa trip that will also include stops in Ethiopia, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Russia’s state-run RT television network.
On Sunday, he first held talks with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, then his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shukry. Lavrov was later to meet with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and also address the pan-Arab organization, RT reported.
Lavrov’s visit comes as Western powers have sought to isolate Russia with tough sanctions over the war with Ukraine.
After meeting Arab League members in Cairo, he will travel to Ethiopia and Uganda, two countries whose relations with the West have come under strain, as well as Congo Republic.
Egypt has significant strategic and economic ties with Russia, which has been a key source in recent years of wheat, weaponry and - until the war complicated travel - tourists.
This week, Russian state-owned energy corporation Rosatom started long-delayed construction on Egypt's first nuclear plant, the largest Russian-Egyptian project since the Aswan High Dam on the Nile was completed in 1970.
Those ties have caused angst with Western states, a group of which petitioned the Egyptian government and the Arab League ahead of Lavrov's visit not to play into Russia's version of events in Ukraine, diplomats said.
Russia says it is conducting a "special military operation" in Ukraine, blaming NATO’s expansion to its borders for sparking the conflict and Western sanctions for a worsening food crisis.
The Western stance on the war has gained limited traction in the Arab world and Africa, where governments are receptive to non-Western alternatives, said H.A. Hellyer of the Royal United Services Institute, a UK think tank.
Egypt "identifies that the world is becoming more and not less multipolar, and it doesn't want to limit itself to a relationship that privileges the West above all else," he said.
From Libya to Nigeria, Ethiopia to Mali, Moscow has been building key strategic military alliances and an increasingly favorable public profile across Africa in recent years.
In the past year alone, Russia has signed military cooperation agreements with Nigeria and Ethiopia, Africa’s two most populous nations.