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Putin in Egypt, Boosts Middle East Ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Egypt on Tuesday in what was the first official visit of a Russian leader to the country in 40 years.

Putin’s visit aims to upgrade Moscow’s position in the region and enhance ties between Russia and Middle Eastern countries.

Economic ties between Russia and Egypt were also on the agenda, and trade between these countries increased considerably last year.

Putin’s delegation includes Russian businessmen who came to meet Egyptian industrialists interested in Russian technology, AP reported.

A spokesman for the Egyptian presidential office told reporters after the visit that Putin and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak discussed the possible creation of a free-trade zone as well as other cooperation agreements.

Putin and Mubarak also discussed efforts to revive the peace process in the Middle East. Russia, together with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations constitute the Quartet which sponsored the Road Map plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Putin will also be visiting other countries in the Middle East. He will be arriving in Israel on Wednesday where he will meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israeli President Moshe Katsav and other high-ranking officials.

On Friday Putin plans to meet Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas in Ramallah.