Syrian minister visits Egypt in secret mission

Syrian minister visits Egypt in secret mission
A Syrian minister arrived in Cairo on Saturday in the first visit by a Syrian official in three years, raising questions on the real purpose behind the visit.
2 min read
06 December, 2015
Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Syria in 2013 [Getty]
Syrian housing and urban development minister Mohammad Walid Ghazal arrived in Egypt's capital city of Cairo on Saturday, according to local media.

The three-day visit is the first Syrian official mission to Egypt since the Egyptian ambassador to Damascus was recalled in 2012.

The Egyptian housing ministry denied it was coordinating Ghazal's visit, saying that he was attending an event organised by the Federation of Arab Engineers (FAE) in Cairo to discuss ways of cooperation with other countries in the region in the field of engineering.

The FAE representative in Egypt, Mohammad al-Nimr, told Egyptian daily al-Tahrir that Ghazal was representing the Syrian Engineers Syndicate in response to an invitation by the FAE to attend the Arab Engineers Conference, which is set to kick off on 11 December in the resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh.

Nimr explained that the FAE has extended invitations to engineers syndicates in all Arab countries, and that the invitation did not violate boycott decisions by the Egyptian state or the Arab league, as it was sent to the syndicate, which represents the Syrian people, not the regime.

However, Cairo University professor Hassan Nafaa told al-Araby al-Jadeed that discussing engineering cooperation was unlikely to be the motive behind the visit.

"The visit is part of international attempts to reach a political settlement for the Syrian crisis, in which Egypt is playing an important role," Nafaa said.

"The timing of the visit is highly significant, as Egypt has supported Russian airstrikes in Syrian territories, while Russian-Turkish relations are strained," he added.

According to Nafaa, communication has been ongoing between the two countries over the past two years despite the declared official position.

In June 2013, ousted Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi announced that Egypt was cutting off diplomatic ties with Syria and oredered the closing of its embassy in Cairo.

The Syrian regime has been facing an international boycott, as only a few countries receive Syrian officials, namely Iran and Russia.