Egyptian FM on surprise Iraq visit

October 5, 2008 12:00 am

, CAIRO, October 5 – Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit made a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday, the first such trip since 1990, his office said.

The one-day visit is aimed at restoring formal ties between the two countries, a foreign ministry official said in a statement.

Cairo has had no official diplomatic representative in Iraq since the July 2005 abduction and murder by Al-Qaeda of its charge d’affaires in Baghdad, Ihab al-Sharif.

Abul Gheit is being accompanied by Egypt’s Oil Minister Sameh Fahmi, the state-run MENA news agency reported.

The foreign minister said in May that Cairo was ready to send a fact-finding delegation to Baghdad to evaluate security conditions for opening an embassy.

"When we set up an embassy in Iraq we want to guarantee that conditions will be favourable and that its security will not be undermined," he said at the time.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in April appealed to Sunni Arab states to help stabilise Iraq by living up to pledges to forgive his country’s debts, erasing war reparations and reopening embassies in Baghdad.

Egypt is the latest Arab country seeking to strengthen diplomatic ties with Iraq since April when the United States urged its Sunni Arab allies to reopen embassies in Baghdad in a bid to shore up the Maliki government.

Since then Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have named ambassadors to Baghdad and some Arab leaders, including Jordan’s King Abdullah II, have made surprise visits to Iraq.

Washington’s regional foe Syria also named an ambassador to Iraq in September.

The prime minister of Kuwait, which was invaded by Iraq 18 years ago, said in September he had accepted an invitation to visit Iraq.

But oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia has said it was waiting for security to improve.


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