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Leaders of Russia, Egypt Conclude Talks in Cairo

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo

Talks between the leaders of Russia and Egypt concluded in Cairo Wednesday, following discussions that entailed a wide spectrum of issues including the Middle East peace process.

While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict topped their discussions Wednesday, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also talked about developments in Syria and Lebanon, as well as efforts to bolster trade between Russia and Egypt.

A senior Egyptian official said the two leaders also briefly discussed the possible sale of Russian-made missiles to Syria, which is of deep concern to Israel.

The visit to Egypt by Mr. Putin, who says he wants to develop a better understanding of the Arab world, is the first by a Russian or Soviet leader in 40 years. Nikita Khrushchev visited Cairo in 1964.

Russia is one of four countries backing the "Road Mp" for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, along with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.

Following discussions late Tuesday, a spokesman for President Mubarak said the two men shared a similar approach to the Middle East peace process.

The former Soviet Union once wielded enormous political influence in the Middle East and especially in Egypt, where former Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser led a socialist movement during the 1950s and 60s. That changed in 1971 when Anwar Sadat became president and decided to develop stronger ties with the United States. Today, Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel.

Russia has since strengthened its ties with Israel, where there is a large population of former Russian and Soviet citizens. Mr. Putin is expected to arrive in Israel late Wednesday.