|President Moon Jae-in speaks while his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi listens during a press conference after their summit at the latter’s presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday (local time). Yonhap|
Seoul, Cairo to work together to export K-9 howitzers to Egyptian military
CAIRO ― President Moon Jae-in and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi held a summit, Thursday (local time), and exchanged their views on future-oriented and sustainable bilateral cooperation.
The summit drew keen attention on whether the two countries would reach a deal on Korea’s exports of K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers to Egypt. Although there was no announcement of a deal, Moon kept a positive note on K-9 exports, citing the two countries’ recognition of the benefits of the pact.
Moon arrived in Cairo a day earlier, marking the first Korean presidential visit to Egypt in 16 years. The official visit was scheduled in March last year, but had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The two countries formed a comprehensive cooperative partnership when the Egyptian president visited Korea in 2016.
“Egypt and Korea have been cooperating in economy, diplomacy, culture and various other fields,” Moon said during a joint press briefing after the summit at the presidential palace in Cairo. “We, the leaders of the two countries, have recognized that the two countries’ comprehensive cooperative partnership has brought reciprocal benefits to both countries and agreed to strengthen sustainable and future-oriented cooperation.”
Moon noted that the two countries will strengthen reciprocal economic cooperation by pursuing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). During the summit, Korean and Egyptian trade ministers signed an MOU to conduct joint research on a trade and economic partnership, to study the feasibility of a potential FTA between the two countries.
Egypt is the first African country with which Korea is seeking to forge an FTA. Cheong Wa Dae expects the deal with Cairo to open the gateway for Korean companies to enter markets in Africa and the Middle East. Egypt also has no FTA with an Asian country.
Moon said the two countries will enhance their sustainable development partnership, which includes Korea’s increased official development assistance to Egypt’s infrastructure projects.
|President Moon Jae-in and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi pose before their summit at the latter’s presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday. Yonhap|
During the summit, Korea pledged to make room for another $1 billion in its Economic Development Cooperation Fund to Egypt for the next five years. Also, the two countries signed a $312 million loan contract for Egypt’s Luxor-High Dam and Naga Hammadi-Luxor railway expansion projects.
The summit drew hopes that a license-out deal allowing Egypt to manufacture Korea’s K-9 howitzer could be signed on the occasion of Moon’s visit to Cairo. However, it appeared that the two countries could not reach the signing stage. The President said the two countries will continue efforts to strike a deal.
“The two leaders agreed that the ongoing negotiations for the K-9 deal will contribute greatly to strengthening Egyptian military capability, and the technology cooperation and local production of the howitzer will be a model case of mutual cooperation,” Moon said. “And we have agreed that the two countries will jointly make efforts to the complete the deal.”
The K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer is popular in various regions around the world, with 1,700 in service in seven countries ― Korea, Turkey, India, Poland, Finland, Norway and Estonia ― and Australia signed a contract last month to buy 30 of the artillery pieces in a deal worth $788 million. Egypt was recently mentioned as one of the new buyers of the K-9.
Also during the summit, Moon promised Korea’s support for Egypt hosting the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27), to strengthen their partnership in renewable energy and eco-friendly infrastructure. The leaders also agreed to cooperate in the preservation of cultural heritage.
“Today’s meeting is the outcome of the two countries’ joint efforts in the past, and the meeting is about setting up comprehensive cooperation strategies and action plans for shared visions between the two countries,” Egyptian President El-Sisi said. “It is paving the way for the new era of partnership which bridges the two countries.”