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Putin Meets Egyptian Leader As Russia Seeks Greater Role In Middle East

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his second visit to Moscow in three months.

Sissi said at the Kremlin on August 26 that the Egyptian people were hoping for broader ties with Russia in all areas, particularly in fighting terrorism.

"[We] have underscored the vital importance of setting a counterterrorism front to include key international players of the region including Syria," Sissi said.

He said after the talks that he was satisfied with improved ties in the business and military spheres.

The Kremlin said the meeting focused on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, along with "prospects for a Palestinian-Israeli resolution and efforts to combat international terrorism."

Egypt has been wracked by a wave of terrorist attacks since Sissi overthrew democratically elected President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

Russia and Egypt conducted their first naval drills near the Egyptian port of Alexandria in June.

According to Russian media reports, the Egyptian leader was also expected to sign a deal for the Russian state nuclear company Rosatom to build Egypt's first nuclear power plant in the northern district of El-Dabaa.

Putin said Russia was nearing completion of the practical analysis for the project.

He also said Russia would increase its grain exports to Egypt.

State media reported that such exports amounted to 4 million tons last year, covering 40 percent of Egypt's demand.

Moscow has hosted several Middle Eastern leaders in recent weeks as it seeks a greater role in mediating in the conflicts in the region, especially in Syria and in efforts to combat Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria.

Russia and Iran are two of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's strongest allies.

Sissi's visit comes one day after Jordanian King Abdullah II was in Moscow for talks.

Abdullah reportedly told Putin that Russia's role was critical "in uniting all the opposing sides [in Syria] at the negotiating table for a peaceful solution."

Jordan hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and is part of the multinational anti-IS coalition that is conducting air strikes against the extremist militants in Syria and Iraq.

Earlier the same day, Putin met with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Muhammad bin Zayid al-Nahyan.

Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and several other predominantly Sunni countries in the Middle East want Assad to step aside as Syrian ruler.

Fighting in Syria since the conflict erupted in early 2011 has killed some 250,000 people and forced millions of people to leave their homes.

With reporting by AP, TASS, Interfax, and dpa
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