Egypt and Russia plan to finalize this week a long-awaited deal to build a $30-billion nuclear plant in the North African country, officials with knowledge of the deal said, as the Kremlin seeks to further expand its influence in the volatile region.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin is due to meet his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo on Monday.
Formal statements announcing the visit made no specific mention of the nuclear plant but Egyptian and Russian officials familiar with the matter said they were preparing for the possible signing of the energy pact after more than two years of talks.
The Russian official said the deal was ready to be signed though final approval will depend on top-level political discussions. Both officials asked not to be named as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Russiaís state nuclear monopoly Rosatom Corp. declined to comment. Egyptís electricity ministry and the presidential spokesman did not immediately respond to calls or texts. Egyptís state-run Al-Ahram cited an unnamed electricity official on Saturday, however, saying that the final deal would be inked during Putinís visit.
Putin has worked to boost Russiaís influence in the Middle East and North Africa in recent years, intervening militarily in Syria in 2015 and playing an active diplomatic role in the Libyan conflict and beyond.