Cairo has reportedly balked at requests to send weapons to Kiev as it seeks to maintain neutrality on the conflict with Russia
Egyptian officials have reportedly decided not to get involved in arming Ukraine, shrugging off repeated US requests in recent months to produce artillery shells and other weapons needed for Kiev’s counteroffensive against Russian forces in the Donbass region.
Washington asked Egypt to supply artillery, antitank missiles, air defense systems and small arms for Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing unidentified US officials. The requests were made on multiple occasions, including a March meeting between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo.
“In conversations with US officials, Egypt hasn’t definitively rejected the requests, but Egyptian officials said privately that Egypt has no plans to send the weapons,” the newspaper said.
That message apparently hasn’t gotten through to Washington. A US State Department official expressed optimism on getting Egypt to back Ukraine, telling the media outlet that “our discussions with our Egyptian partners on our mutual interest in ending Russa’s war are productive and ongoing.”
Earlier this year, Cairo reportedly backed down under US pressure from an alleged plan to sell rockets to Russia. Al-Sisi has tried to maintain good relations with both Washington and Moscow amid the Ukraine crisis, declining to join in the US-led campaign to arm Ukraine and punish Russia.
The WSJ noted that the failure to enlist Egypt in the effort comes at a “critical moment” in the conflict, in which Ukrainian forces are trying to push through Russia’s formidable defensive lines as the US tries to rally military and diplomatic support for Kiev. Al-Sisi’s decision also comes at a time when some members of Congress are urging President Joe Biden’s administration to withhold $320 million of the $1.3 billion in annual US military aid pledged to Egypt, citing the country’s human rights record.
US intelligence agencies reportedly expected a different outcome. The Washington Post reported in April that according to leaked US intelligence documents, the Egyptian government had approved a plan to sell 152mm and 155mm artillery rounds to the US for transfer to Ukraine.
Al-Sisi attended Russian President Vladimir Putin’s summit with African leaders last month in St. Petersburg. After a one-on-one meeting with al-Sisi, Putin said Russia aimed to complete an industrial zone near the Suez Canal as part of a plan to ramp up trade with Egypt and other African nations.