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US vows to sanction 'Russian weapons' buyers'

Russian S-400 air defence system, seen during a military parade in Moscow, Russia [Wikipedia]
Russian S-400 air defence system, seen during a military parade in Moscow, Russia, 27 December 2017 [Wikipedia]

The United States (US) would impose sanctions on foreign countries who are seeking to purchase military weapons from Russia, a senior official at the White House warned yesterday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that foreign countries who possess military relationships with Russia "must consider the US Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)," which he said was authorising sanctions on those who engage in significant transactions with the Russian defence or intelligence sectors.

The CAATSA was passed by Congress in 2017 with the aim of imposing sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia.

Referring to Egypt's recent military agreement with Russia, the official pointed out that US law was giving the American president "very little flexibility" over sanctions imposed on countries who do business with Russian defence sectors.

READ: Trump praises Egypt's Sisi despite concerns about human rights, Russian arms

"Countries that engage in those purchases need to know that we are extremely limited in what we can do to mitigate," the New York Times quoted the US official as saying.

Russia's daily Kommersant reported last month that Moscow and Cairo had signed a $2 billion deal to supply Egypt with more than 20 Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets, as well as weapons for the aircraft. The newspaper said the aircrafts would be delivered to Egypt between 2020-2021. However, the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) later stressed that no contracts for aircraft supply were signed between the two countries.

"We really would urge countries that wish to maintain and expand their military relationship with the US to take that legislation very seriously," the official added, noting that Washington was facing similar situations with China, India and Turkey.

The White House's remarks came hours ahead of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's arrival in the US capital to hold talks with his American counterpart, Donald Trump. The official said that the two leaders would discuss "tensions in the Middle East, security, economic reform and human rights in Egypt." Reuters reported that Trump made no mention of human rights during the meeting.

READ: Egypt's prisons a breeding ground for extremism, warns report

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