Syrian foreign minister visits Egypt for first time in over a decade

Syria’s foreign minister met his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Saturday in the first such visit in more than a decade.

Faisal Mekdad met with Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry at the Foreign Ministry in the capital, in the first official visit since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

The visit will help implement steps to return Syria to the Arab League through the mediation of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, an Egyptian security source told Reuters.

Syria was suspended from the Arab League 12 years ago after the government’s violent crackdown on mass protests against Bashar al-Assad’s rule, with many Arab states calling for the president to be removed from office.

But in recent years, as Assad – with significant help from Russia – has defeated his enemies across much of Syria, regional states have taken steps to end the isolation of Damascus, and the United Arab Emirates on leading edge in Arab rapprochement.

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The UAE reopened the Syrian embassy in 2018 and welcomed Assad to Abu Dhabi and Dubai last year during his first trip to an Arab state since the start of the war.

Saudi Arabia and Syria agreed last week to reopen their embassies after an 11-year freeze in diplomatic relations.

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The move follows the restoration of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Syria’s closest ally in the region, earlier in March.

After the devastating earthquake on February 6 that killed over 7,000 people in Syria and more than 45,000 in Turkey, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi held a phone call with Assad, in the first official exchange between the two.

A week later, Egypt’s Shoukry traveled to Syria, in a visit he called “mainly humanitarian” and “to advance our solidarity”.

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