Friendship with the Russians was the theme of two full-page opinion pieces by the leaders of state-owned daily Al-Akhbar. This follows President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Egypt last Monday, which witnessed the signing of the Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant deal.
The newspaper’s CEO Yasser Rizk’s op-ed was titled “Egypt and Russia: a friendship that doesn’t have secret agendas”. Rizk called the deal “the Egyptian project of the century.” He wrote that bilateral relations have never been as close as they are under President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s regime, highlighting “a special relationship” with Putin.
“The strong comeback of the Russian friend,” was the title chosen by Al-Akhbar’s Editor-in-chief Khaled Miry, who focused on the protocol on resumption of Russian flights to Egypt signed by the Egyptian minister of aviation following Putin’s visit. Miry referred to the terrorist attack which brought down Metrojet flight 9268 over Sinai as one of the two “greatest conspiracies” against Egypt in post-June 30—the second being the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni. He praised the Egyptian government’s efforts in restoring confidence in its airports’ security.
The topic was presented differently by private Al-Shorouk’s Editor-in-chief Emad El-Din Hussein who argued that depending on a singular source of tourists has been damaging for Egypt, especially that despite the resumption of Russian flights, the protocol did not include the cities of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada, where tourism is most needed.
In the private Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, writer Abbas El-Tarabily raised a point also shared by Hussein, which is about the Russian side’s confusing stance regarding flights and exaggerated demands that are rejected by Egyptian sovereignty. Did Egypt fail to meet security expectations or “are the Russians just using pretexts?” he questioned, as he called on authorities to “preserve national dignity” instead of “begging” for Russian tourists.
On a different note, the Palestinian issue of Jerusalem and US-Israeli relations was among the topics most focused on in the privately-owned Al-Youm Al-Sabea newspaper’s opinion section.
Senior foreign affairs journalist Youssef Ayoub analysed the purpose of US Vice President Mike Pence’s expected Middle East tour. He opined that his visit will probably aim at more support for Israel, which will become a key player in a planned international alliance to face Iran. However, Ayoub argued that Washington is aware that Middle Eastern countries would not trade Jerusalem for support against Iran and that Pence’s visit will bring nothing new to peace negotiations.
Abdul Fattah Abdul Moneim, managing editor at the newspaper, wrote that he has been digging into the history of US policies towards the Middle East, as he focused on US military and economic aid to Israel and other means of support, thanks to an active “Zionist lobby that has been able to affect American presidents by all means.”
Another local topic that remains on the agenda of newspapers is the destiny of Ahmed Shafiq: whether he is under house arrest or if his presidential candidacy will really take place to compete against Al-Sisi.
Al-Shorouk’s Mohamed Saad Abdel Hafiz wrote that it would not be in Egypt’s best interest to force Shafiq out of the presidential race and distort his image. He argued that Al-Sisi does not need support which he already largely enjoys, but rather, an opponent in an honest fight.
In the same direction, Mohamed Amin, chairman of the board of trustees at Al-Masry Al-Youm, opined that Egypt should be presenting a real presidential election system, rather than a referendum, as he denounced opinions that claim that elections would destroy stability and that political opposition is criticism of the president on a personal level, not of his policies.