* Final decision seen after presidential elections in Egypt
* Russia, Egypt mull a number of joint projects
* Russia wants to boost wheat exports to Egypt - official
(Adds details, quotes, context)
By Polina Devitt
MOSCOW, March 26 Egypt has resumed talks about
the creation of a free trade zone with the customs union of
Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Egyptian and Russian officials
said on Wednesday.
Russia is increasing efforts to strengthen relations with
large importers of its products as the United States and
European Union threaten steeper sanctions over Moscow's
intervention in the crisis in Ukraine.
In the biggest East-West confrontation since the Cold War,
the U.S. and EU have imposed visa bans and asset freezes on some
of President Vladimir Putin's closest political and business
allies after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea.
"There were talks about this (creation of the free trade
zone with Egypt) before 2011.. Now we have agreed to resume
these negotiations and to discuss sectors of cooperation,"
Russian Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fydorov said.
"The final decision will be made after the (presidential)
election campaign in Egypt, official documents will be appearing
after it," he told reporters in Moscow after the meeting of the
Russian-Egyptian commission for trade development.
Egypt has yet to announce the official date of presidential
elections that army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is
expected to win.
Egyptian industry and investment minister Mounir Fakhry
Abdel Nour said that the agreement on free trade with the
customs union could contribute to expanding cooperation between
He said the officials have also discussed a number of joint
projects, including supplies of Russian liquefied natural gas
and other commodities.
Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom is considering taking
part in the construction of a nuclear power plant in Egypt,
according to officials.
They have also agreed to revive Russia's participation in
modernisation of assets dating back to the Soviet era, Fyodorov
said. He mentioned an aluminium plant, a hydro power plant and
projects related to the light metro in Cairo and grain storage.
He did not specify what form Russia's involvement could take.
Egypt is already the largest importer of Russian wheat,
buying one fifth of the country's exports of this commodity so
far in 2013/14. It bought 2.6 million tonnes of Russian wheat
between July 1 and the end of February.
"You (Russia) have expressed your wish to expand exports,
primarily of wheat... and we want to develop exports of
vegetables and fruit. It would help widen our cooperation,"
Abdel Nour told the meeting.
Officials did not provide any other details on how Russian
wheat exports could be increased.
It is unlikely that the countries will reach a major
long-term wheat supply deal - a possibility the market has
repeatedly speculated on, although there might be other ways of
a deeper cooperation, a trader said.
"Egypt has often talked about these long term wheat deals
before but no one believes anything practical will come out of
it as it doesn't make sense, why would you lock yourself into a
deal with certain prices and what if market prices go down after
that, you are stuck paying the higher price?" the trader said.
"What is more realistic is that they discuss together
whether or not the Russian government can perhaps encourage
Russian firms to participate more directly in GASC (Egyptian
state wheat buyer) tenders to increase the amount of Russian
(Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow and Maha El Dahan in Abu
Dhabi; Writing by Polina Devitt; Editing by Maria Kiselyova and