In response to circulated media reports about the US warning Egypt from sanctions over a $2bn contract to buy more than 20 Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, an Egyptian high-ranking state official asserted that Egypt is an “independent state that does not take orders from any other countries with regards to its foreign and domestic policies.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper warned Egyptian Defence Minister Mohamed Ahmed Zaki Mohamed that Cairo’s Su-35 deal could trigger sanctions.
The official told Daily News Egypt that what is being reported about US warnings to Egypt to suspend the Su-35 deal with Russia is ‘meaningless’ and should not be taken seriously , asserting that the deal will continue and will not be suspended under any circumstances.
“Egypt does not interfere in any country’s domestic or foreign affairs, likewise we do not allow any other country, policymaker, or whoever to interfere in its internal or foreign affairs. Egypt consider this as an infringement of sovereign rights, which is a red line for us,” the official added.
The official noted that the Egyptian foreign policy has pursued various sources of armament in recent years, and accordingly has military relations with different arms manufacturers’ countries.
Reports of an upcoming deal between Egypt and Russia for the purchase of the Su-35 have sparked controversy in US policy circuits.
“Major new arms deals with Russia would — at a minimum — complicate future US defence transactions with and security assistance to Egypt,” Pompeo and Esper were quoted as saying in a letter on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
Pentagon officials reportedly personally warned Egyptian air force chief Mohamed Abbas about the deal’s consequences. An unnamed State Department official told WSJ that Washington urges all its allies and partners to reconsider transactions with Russian defence and intelligence.
”The issue of US ‘s warning against proceeding with the Su-35 deal should be taken with a grain of salt, and this [similar reaction] is expected as Egypt continues to sign several arms deals with China, Russia, and France. This matter is considered a sovereign issue” the official stressed.
Earlier, the US has warned that Egypt and other countries, which want to buy Russian weapons, should not forget the consequences of the application of US act on “confronting US’s enemies through sanctions”.
A 2017 US law aiming to punish Russia for actions including alleged election interference places secondary sanctions on countries trading with Russia’s defence and intelligence sectors.
Under the law, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Chinese military for buying 10 Su-35 aircraft from Russia. It also blacklisted 33 people and entities linked to Russia’s military and intelligence.
For his part, Andrei Krasov, deputy chairman of the Defence Committee of the Russian State Duma (lower house) asserted in statements published by the state-run Russian news agency Sputnik that the US threat to Egypt to impose sanctions if it buys “Su-35” is an unfair attempt to compete in the arms market.
The Russian parliamentarian pointed out that the US practices the policy of sanctions against countries that have an “independent foreign policy”, aiming to promote Washington’s economic and geopolitical interests.
In the same context, Alexei Kondratev, a member of the International Committee of the Russian Federal Council (Senate), told Sputnik that US statements about possible sanctions against Egypt regarding Cairo’s decision to buy Russian Su-35 fighter jets contradict international arms trade rules.
Kondratev stressed that US has no right to interfere in commercial transactions. “This is not allowed. There is high competition in the arms market, and the US’s side, as usual, is trying to use pressure,” he added.
“We need to go on the diplomatic track, and expand the horizons of cooperation with other countries and provide them with our weapons,” he continued.
Last April, the Russian newspaper Kommersant announced that Russia and Egypt have signed this year a contract to supply Cairo with Sukhoi-35 fighter jets, but this information has not been officially confirmed.
According to unidentified sources that spoke with the newspaper, Egypt will get more than 20 Su-35 fighters for $2bn as the contract goes into effect, and deliveries can begin in 2020-2021.
The WSJ said in its report that Egypt resorted to the Su-35 deal as US did not fulfil their promises to sell F-35 fighters.
“Egyptian officials have always urged the US administration to honour Trump’s promise after his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in 2018 on granting Egypt F-35 fighters,” the WSJ quoted an official familiar with the US-Egyptian military talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The newspaper pointed out that the Egyptian request came after ongoing discussions with the US side, despite the US’s refusal to sell those fighter jets to Egypt, adding, “This is what prompted the Egyptian army to buy those modern fighter jets from Russia.”
The WSJ’s source elaborated that it is clear Egypt’s request to buy F-35 fighter jets seems to remain unacceptable, as those planes are forbidden to sell in the Middle East except to Israel.