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

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) meets with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad at the ministry headquarters in Cairo on April 1, 2023 (Photo by AFP)

Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad has held a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart in the capital, Cairo, to discuss strengthening of bilateral relations as well as the latest regional and international developments.

Mekdad met with Sameh Shoukry at the foreign ministry in Cairo on Saturday, in the first such visit since the Syrian conflict broke out more than a decade ago.  

The Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement that the two ministers had a closed door meeting followed by discussions between the two countries' delegations.

The ministry said discussions were focused on "supporting the Syrian people to restore (the country's) unity and sovereignty over its whole territories."

"The ministers agreed to intensify channels of communication between the two countries at different levels during the coming phase," the statement said.

Egypt also reiterated its backing for a "comprehensive political settlement to the Syrian crisis as soon as possible," it added.

The meeting comes amid efforts by certain countries to restore Syria’s membership in the Arab League, more than a decade after it was suspended from the 22-member bloc.

An Egyptian security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the visit will help put in place steps to return Syria to the Arab League through Egyptian and Saudi Arabian mediation.

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011, citing an alleged crackdown by Damascus on opposition protests. Syria has denounced the move as “illegal and a violation of the organization’s charter.”

Syria was one of the six founding members of the Arab League in 1945. In recent months, an increasing number of countries and political parties have called for the reversal of its suspension from the Arab League.

Back in February, Shoukry travelled to Syria, in a visit he described as "primarily humanitarian" following the devastating earthquake that hit the war-torn Arab country and neighboring Turkey.

The foreign ministry said at the time that Shoukry will visit Turkey and Syria - both hit hard by a deadly earthquake on February 6 - to "convey a message of solidarity from Egypt with the two countries."

The trip -- the first of its kind in more than a decade-- took place after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad to express his country’s solidarity with Syria.

Since 2011, Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy, leading to the emergence of Daesh and other terrorist groups in the Arab country.

In recent months, observers have noted, there has been a race among Arab countries to mend their ties with the Syrian government, more than ten years after the beginning of a conflict in Syria during which key Arab countries tried to oust Assad.

The new approach adopted by the UAE, which has proven to be much quicker than other Arab countries in making considerable foreign policy shifts to secure its interests, was welcomed by Assad as “realistic and correct.”

Unlike other Arab governments, Cairo never fully severed ties with Damascus after the conflict, but relations were downgraded.

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