U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday that Washington will sanction Cairo, if it moves on with a deal to purchase Su-35 fighter jets from Russia.
“We have made clear that systems were to be purchased that… would require sanctions on the regime … We have received assurances from them, they understand that, and I am very hopeful they will decide not to move forward with that acquisition,” Pompeo told the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Appropriations, according to Sputnik.
Last March, the Kommersant newspaper revealed that Egypt has signed a $2 billion contract to buy “over two dozen” Su-35 fighters from Russia. The deal was never official confirmed by Moscow or Cairo.
Ahead of Pompeo’s threat, a U.S. official urged Egypt to refrain from buying Russian weapons. The official warned that such move could result in sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
“In terms of the expanding Russian influence in the region, that’s obviously something which we are quite concerned. We don’t see a lot of material benefits to engagements with the Russians … We just would encourage the Egyptians to turn more toward the West, toward the United States,” the official said on Monday.
The Su-35 is Russia’s most advanced serial multi-role air superiority fighter jet. In 2015, the Chinese air force ordered 24 fighters of this type. Three years later, Indonesia signed an agreement to purchase 11 Su-35s.
The U.S. threats are aimed at countering the growing military-cooperation between Egypt and Russia. Since the 2013 Egyptian coup d’état, Cairo purchased billions-worth of weapon systems from Russia, including S-300 air-defense systems, Mig-29 fighter jets and Ka-52 attack helicopters.