CAIRO — In a series of recent political and diplomatic shifts in the region, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrived in Cairo, at a time when observers tend that reintegrating Syria into regional politics "may be a matter of time."
Mekdad's visit to Egypt is the first by a Syrian foreign minister in 12 years, during which he discusses supporting cooperation and recent developments in the region, and comes about a month after a qualitative visit by his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry to Syria and Turkey in solidarity with them against the backdrop of the devastating earthquake that struck them, and before that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad after the earthquake.
Recently, Arab communication with the Syrian regime has increased, at a time when Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, whose country will host the next Arab summit in May, said that increased communication with Syria may pave the way for its return to the Arab League as relations improve after more than 10 years of isolation, but it is too early for now to discuss such a step.
While Cairo is one of the most prominent supporters of the Assad regime, having previously stressed on more than one occasion its aspiration for "the return of Syria to its Arab surroundings," Arab countries still have divergent positions on lifting the freeze.
Indication of timing
On the objectives of the visit and the significance of the timing, former Assistant Foreign Minister Rakha Ahmed Hassan explains that it comes in terms of ceremonial response to the visit of Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to Syria last February.
Hassan – a member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs – said in an interview with Al Jazeera Net that the visit discusses primarily bilateral relations, then Arab relations, then regional and international.
To complement the talks in Damascus, Shoukry and Mekdad will discuss bilateral relations on several issues, including the possibility of increasing trade exchange between the two countries, the possibility of Egypt's contribution to reconstruction in Syria, and developments in efforts to resolve the crisis, whether with regard to the constitution or the transitional phase and others, according to the Egyptian diplomat.
Former Egyptian diplomat: Prospects open on upgrading diplomatic relations between Cairo and Damascus (Reuters)
A breakthrough is near.
Hassan said that in light of the news that Assad will visit Cairo, as he has previously visited the UAE and Oman, possibilities remain open about upgrading diplomatic relations between Egypt and Syria, but will the ambassadors be named now (during Miqdad's visit) or wait until Assad visits Cairo?
As for the rumors about the return of Syria's seat in the Arab League, Hassan stressed that his country is one of the countries that welcome this, pointing to a kind of breakthrough after talking about Saudi Arabia's readiness to reopen its consulate in Damascus after this Ramadan, and all possibilities remain open for further breakthrough in Egyptian-Syrian relations or at the Arab level.
However, he said that Syria's file in the Arab League remains one of the files of the visit, as it is not linked to Egypt alone, in light of the reservations of Arab countries towards the return of Syria's seat in the League, adding, "Perhaps the coming days until May 14 will contribute to resolving this situation."
On the dimensions of the visit regarding what is being raised about the nature of Egyptian-Iranian relations recently, the former diplomat explained that his country has uninterrupted direct contacts with Tehran, and there are offices caring for mutual interests headed by ambassadors, pointing out that there are signs of a breakthrough in relations, the latest of which is his country's approval of facilities for the benefit of Iranian tourists to visit Egypt, in the context that almost all Gulf countries have restored their relations with Iran.
When asked: Will the Arab acceleration of normalization with the Assad regime lead to its impunity? The Egyptian ambassador stressed that this "reflects a very thorny issue," blaming the United States for the destruction in Syria, the violation of international conventions, and the mobilization of mercenaries.
Last month, Washington launched what it called "Accountability Month" to emphasize accountability for the Assad regime for "crimes against Syrians."
Hassan added that "America has done nothing for the Arab world for 20 years, except igniting crises, and the best for it and its interests if it does not provide something positive, then shut up, because it hinders the Arab world to heal and develop its capabilities instead of depleting it in Syria, Yemen, Libya or Iraq."
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (left) visited Syria and Turkey after earthquake disaster (Reuters)
Integration of Syria
In a not-too-distant context, international relations expert Mohammed al-Zawawi said that the visit comes in light of radical shifts in regional alliances, especially after the recent Saudi-Iranian agreement.
Zawawi believes that the reintegration of Syria into regional policies "may have become a matter of time," and despite the regime's ineffectiveness in domestic and regional policies, its regional and international supporters have contributed to its inclusion in the ongoing deals, and the geostrategic importance of the Syrian state and its place on the map imposed its existence, and it can no longer be ignored in various files 10 years after the Syrian revolution.
Zawawi believes that the return of the Syrian seat to the Arab League is also only a matter of time, whether at the next summit or the next, as a negotiating card for the various parties regarding the rearrangement of the map of regional alliances.
The US trend to maintain the Assad regime for fear of chaos similar to the Libyan situation as a result of the power vacuum and filling it with armed militias has made it difficult to hold the Assad regime accountable, as it still plays a functional role in bringing together the Syrian state, and therefore preserving the current political structure of the Syrian regime seems to be subject to regional and international consensus, according to Zawawi.