Syria foreign minister makes first Egypt visit for more than a decade

FILE PHOTO: Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad speaks during a joint news conference with Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in Damascus, Syria January 14, 2023. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi/File Photo

CAIRO (Reuters) - Syria's foreign minister met his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Saturday, the first such visit in more than a decade and the latest sign of Arab states mending ties with President Bashar al Assad.

Faisal Mekdad was embraced by Sameh Shoukry as he arrived at the Egyptian foreign ministry, the first official trip since before the uprising and conflict that began in Syria in 2011.

President Assad was shunned by many Western and Arab states due to the war in Syria, which splintered the country and left hundreds of thousands of people dead.

An Egyptian security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the visit was aimed at putting in place steps for Syria's return to the Arab League through Egyptian and Saudi Arabian mediation.

The Cairo-based Arab League suspended Syria's membership in 2011 and many Arab states pulled their envoys out of Damascus.

Some countries, including the United States and Qatar, have opposed the rehabilitation of ties with Assad, citing his government's brutality during the conflict and the need to see progress towards a political solution in Syria.

But key regional powers including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have recently signalled increasing openness towards Damascus.

Egypt's foreign ministry published pictures of the two ministers in a closed meeting before a wider discussion.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported that the talks were aimed at strengthening relations between the two states.

Egypt's Shoukry visited Syria and Turkey in February after the devastating earthquakes there.

(Reporting by Aidan Lewis, Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Maya Gebeily and Kinda Makieh; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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