CAIRO (AP) — Russia’s top diplomat Lavrov was in Cairo for talks Sunday with Egyptian officials as his country seeks to break the diplomatic isolation and sanctions by the West over its invasion of Ukraine.
Sergey Lavrov 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.
In a joint news conference with Shukry, Lavrov said he discussed Russia’s “military operation” in Ukraine with Egyptian officials who urged for “a political and diplomatic” settlement to the conflict.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has had dire effects on the world economy, driving up oil and gas prices to unprecedented levels. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion and naval blockade of its ports have halted shipments.
Some Ukrainian grain is transported through Europe by rail, road and river, but with higher transportation costs. The war has also disrupted shipments of Russian products because shipping and insurance companies are reluctant to deal with Western sanctions on Russia.
African counties are among those most affected by ripples of the war. The prices of vital commodities skyrocketed and billions of dollars in aid have been directed to help those who fled the war in Europe. That has left millions of people in conflict areas in Africa and the Middle East suffering from worsening growing shortages in food and other assistance.
In an article posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website, Lavrov rejected the West’s accusations that Russia is responsible for the global food crisis, as “another attempt to shift the blame to others.”
Seeking to rally African nations on his country’s side, he hailed what he called “an independent path” they took in refraining from joining the West in sanctioning Russia and the “undisguised attempts of the U.S. and their European satellites to gain the upper hand, and to impose a unipolar world order to the international community.”
The article was also published in four African newspapers.
At the Cairo news conference, Lavrov also said a second Russia-Africa summit will be held in mid-2023 as part of Moscow’s efforts to expand Russia’s clout in this part of the world. The first summit was held in 2019 the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Lavrov’s visit comes less than two weeks after President Joe Biden’s Mideast trip. Biden visited Israel and also the occupied West Bank before heading to Saudi Arabia. He also attended a regional summit of Gulf Arab countries and also Egypt, Jordan and Iraq in Saudi Arabia.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, has refused to take sides on Russia’s war in Ukraine as it maintains close ties with both Moscow and the West. Egypt is also among the world’s largest importers of wheat, mainly from Russia and Ukraine.
El-Sissi completed a three-day visit to Serbia last week, the first in more than 30 years by an Egyptian president. Serbia has also abstained from joining Western sanctions against Russia and has maintained friendly relations with Moscow despite the war. The Egyptian leader also visited Germany and France last week.
Russia and Egypt have strengthened their ties considerably in recent years as el-Sissi and Russian President Vladimir Putin developed a close personal rapport, which helped increase military and economic cooperation.
Also last week, Russia’s state-owned atomic energy corporation, Rosatom, began construction of a four-reactor power plant it is building in Egypt.