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Russian Prime Minister Medvedev: Egypt and Russian Cooperation Forges Ahead in Nuclear Power, the BRICS, and More

Aug. 6, 2015 (EIRNS)—With the opening of the New Suez Canal, Russian-Egyptian cooperation is set to expand dramatically. This is the message of Russian Prime Minister Medvedev’s very long interview with Al Ahram, detailing the political and economic cooperation the two countries are now involved in, including through their cooperation with the BRICS. Here are some excerpts:

When asked to state how he senses the importance of the canal, Medvedev said:

"The construction of the new Suez Canal waterway is a grand national project for Egypt and a significant event for the world’s shipping industry.... It connects oceans and continents, making distances between countries shorter. I would say this is one of the symbols of the modern global world....

"The almost twofold increase in the canal’s throughput capacity and its ability to take large vessels will undoubtedly contribute to an increase in the overall volume of maritime trade. Over time, this will transform the appearance of the surrounding area of the canal. New economic zones will emerge along it, creating more points of growth for the Egyptian economy.

"By the way, this year, Russia launched its own major project: The comprehensive development of the Northern Sea Route, the shortest route from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region. This is yet another way to optimize international freight traffic. I believe that the general benefits of such projects are obvious...."

Medvedev spoke about Russia sponsoring an industrial zone in the New Suez Canal corridor project.

"Creating a Russian industrial zone in the Suez Canal could be the first step in this project. This issue is now being actively discussed at the ministerial level. Work is underway to develop a concept for this project, taking into account the market needs of Egypt and other Middle Eastern and African countries....

"We expect to sign a bilateral memorandum of understanding and a roadmap for its implementation."

Potential residents of the zone would be automakers, manufacturers of building materials, river and sea transport companies, energy equipment, and pharmaceutical producers.

Indicating the expansion of economic cooperation between the two countries, Medvedev pointed to the major Russian business forum, Industrial and Commercial Dialogue: Russia-Egypt, which took place in Cairo in May, attended by over 200 business people from Russia and 300 corporate representatives from Egypt. An agreement to start creating a joint investment platform was one of the key results of this meeting.

Medvedev pointed to the history of Russian and Egyptian cooperation since Soviet times, when Russia aided in the building of the Aswan Dam as well as some hundred industrial, energy, and agricultural enterprises. This could now expand, because Russia plans to increase its grain exports to Egypt to 6.5-7 million tons a year. Russia is willing to help Egypt expand its grain storage and processing infrastructure.

Among the most crucial areas in which Russian could contribute is nuclear power. Medvedev told Al Ahram,

"Nuclear power engineering is a strategic area of Russian-Egyptian cooperation. I’m not overstating it. Russia is willing to help Egypt become a regional leader in the nuclear industry.

"Specific agreements were reached during President Putin’s visit to your country on Feb. 10, when an agreement on developing a project to build a nuclear power plant (NPP) in Egypt was signed. Technical specifications and the number of nuclear power units, as well as the key commercial terms, have been agreed upon. They will be included in a new intergovernmental agreement, which is almost ready for signing. Russia can supply the latest power units to Egypt, which are equipped with the safety systems that were developed following the Fukushima-1 accident. New nuclear projects in Iran, India, China, and other countries are built under the same projects."

When asked about prospects for Egypt joining the BRICS, Medvedev said,

"The role of the BRICS in international affairs is growing. Already now, the member states account for half the world’s population and 20% of global GDP. The BRICS is a mechanism for coordinating approaches to important issues in international relations and global development. This contributes to forming a more balanced, more equitable, more sustainable and, if you will, a more democratic international system.

"This year Russia is presiding over the BRICS. The BRICS Summit was held in Ufa. Along with the leaders of the BRICS, the meeting was attended by the heads of member states of the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the SCO observer states....

"However, it’s too early to speak about expanding the BRICS. The association needs to fine-tune its mechanisms and formats, which are numerous, including the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, to name a few. This does not mean, however, that the BRICS will not accept new members in the future."