Egypt: Sisi likely to meet Syria’s Assad in April, report

Syrian foreign minister has paid first visit to Egypt in more than decade amid reports that Egypt’s Sisi is likely to meet his Syrian counterpart Bashar Al-Assad at the end of April, according to Wall Street Journal.

The US newspaper, citing informed sources, said Cairo and Damascus are conducting “advanced discussions” to restore diplomatic ties and to hold a top-level meeting between the two countries.

The Sisi-Assad meeting would possibly take place after the end of the holy month of Ramadan at the end of April, the Wall Street Journal said.

However, the date and the place of the meeting were not mentioned.

There was no comment from Egyptian or Syrian authorities on the WSJ report.

On Saturday, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo, the first such visit in more than a decade.

A statement by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the two sides agreed on intensifying channels of communication between the two countries with a view to tackling issues and matters of interest for both states.

Mekdad’s visit was the first to Egypt since Syria’s membership in the Cairo-based Arab League was suspended in November 2011 following the regime’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

The Syrian regime exchanged official visits with several Arab countries in recent years amid reports about a possible resumption of Syria’s membership in the Arab League.

Egypt-Iran relations

On the other hand, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Naseer Kanaani, in mid-March said that Tehran wanted to improve relations with Egypt, days after it had been announced that Iran and Saudi Arabia had re-established diplomatic relations as part of a Chinese-brokered deal.

“Egypt is an important country in the region and what the region needs is synergy between Iran and Egypt,” Kanaani told journalists, “and we believe in taking new steps to improve our relations.”

He added that Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi had a “quick and positive” meeting during the Baghdad II Summit hosted in Jordan late last year.

Although there has been no immediate comment from Cairo regarding Kanaani’s statement, news of the restoration of relations between Riyadh and Tehran was welcomed.

The Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat then cited an informed Egyptian source in Cairo that confirmed that, “The channels of communication between Cairo and Tehran did not stop within the framework of [special circles]. There is an expression of great and high-level appreciation from Iran for Egypt and its political leadership.”

The source added that, “There are no major points of divergence between the two sides except for Tehran’s relationship with the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements, as well as taking into account the general Egyptian principle that rejects interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries.”

Egypt’s former Foreign Minister Mohamed Orabi told the newspaper that, “There is no strategic need at the current stage to accelerate steps in this regard.” Nevertheless, he acknowledged that “Iran is a country that plays a major role in the region.”

Tehran’s relationship with Cairo has been fraught since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, primarily due to Egypt’s close alliance with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Matters took a turn for the worse when the exiled Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was granted asylum in Egypt, where he ultimately died and was buried in 1980.