Putin, Sisi 'virtually' lay foundation for Egypt's El-Dabaa nuclear power plant
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi virtually laid the foundation of El-Dabaa, Egypt's first-ever nuclear power plant (NPP), on Tuesday afternoon, 23 January.
Both presidents witnessed the official ceremony of pouring the concrete of the fourth and final reactor of the NPP, developed by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) in Egypt's Mediterranean Dabaa city in Marsa Matrouh province, located about 320 kilometres northwest of the capital Cairo.
As per earlier statements by both governments, Putin was expected to visit Egypt in person and join Sisi during the celebration. But less than 24 hours before the event took place, the Russian presidency declared Putin would attend the ceremony via video conferencing.
It remains unclear, meanwhile, why Putin did not make it to the official celebration in Egypt. The Russian embassy in Cairo could not comment at the publication time.
Speculations suggested that the arrest warrant issued earlier last year by the United Nations International Criminal Court (ICC) against Putin over alleged war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine has restricted his movement internationally ever since.
A legal expert, however, refuted this theory.
"The ICC has no jurisdiction in Egypt, and its arrest warrants cannot be carried out in Egypt against any heads of state," a Cairo-based international law expert told The New Arab.
"Egypt signed the ICC's Roman Statue in 2000, which recognises states having the responsibility and right to prosecute international crimes. But for several political reasons, later including the 2013 military coup, it has not yet been ratified," the expert added on condition of anonymity.
The long-awaited NPP, which will operate with a 120-megawatt capacity for each of its four reactors, costs US$28.75 billion; about 85 per cent of it is financed by Russia and paid by Egypt over a 22-year loan with an annual three per cent interest rate as per a bilateral agreement signed back in 2015.
Egypt's Nuclear Power Plants Authority and ROSATOM began building the first and second nuclear reactors in 2022, while the foundation was laid for the third a year later. Unconfirmed reports said the NPP will be ready to operate by 2028.
Sisi has maintained friendly ties with Russia in several fields since he took power unofficially in 2013 as the de facto leader of Egypt and one year later as a president, which became somewhat problematic following the Russian war on Ukraine.