Washington has been trying to fence in Russian military planes, but Al Sisi’s government isn’t playing ball, the Wall Street Journal reported
Egypt has ignored US requests that it close its airspace to Russian military flights, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. This airspace is a vital corridor between Russia and its military bases in Syria.
Multiple American officials asked Cairo in February and March to declare its skies off limits to Russian military aircraft, the newspaper reported, citing US and Egyptian officials. Egypt has not responded to these requests, and flights between Syria and Russia have reportedly continued unimpeded.
Asked by the Wall Street Journal, a US State Department official declined to “comment on private diplomatic conversations.”
Situated on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, Khmeimim Air Base is one of Russia’s most important military facilities in Syria. With Iraq, Jordan, and Türkiye blocking most Russian military flights since last year at the US’ request, Russian aircraft must now fly south over Azerbaijan and Iran, west over Saudi Arabia, and finally back north over Egypt before landing at Khmeimim.
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Without permission to fly over Egypt, Russia would be forced to seek a new and far longer route over Africa to reach its forces in Syria by air. Meanwhile, Türkiye’s closure of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to military vessels last year has complicated the movement of arms and equipment by sea.
American officials believe that Moscow is moving weapons from Syria to the battlefield in Ukraine, although this has not been confirmed or denied by the Russian side.
Discounting Ukraine, Egypt is the second-largest recipient of US military aid in the world, receiving about $1.3 billion a year from Washington. Despite only Israel receiving more direct military support from the US, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi has not completely aligned his foreign policy with that of Washington.
Al Sisi has deployed troops in Libya and ordered airstrikes against the US-recognized Government of National Accord, all while funding the opposing Libyan National Army, which was aided on the battlefield by Russian military contractors.
The Egyptian president has a cordial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the country has adopted a neutral stance on the conflict in Ukraine. According to recently leaked Pentagon documents, however, Al Sisi recently dropped a plan to supply arms to Russia and instead agreed to supply the US with artillery ammunition for Kiev’s forces. The decision was made following what the Washington Post termed “a diplomatic offensive from Washington.”