Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)
Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

A busy week in foreign relations

Tourism, terrorism and regional politics topped the discussions Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri had with three visiting dignitaries, writes Doaa El-Bey


A busy week in foreign relations
A busy week in foreign relations

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri met with the foreign ministers of Ukraine, France and Yemen this week.

Pavlo Klimkin’s visit to Cairo was the first by a Ukrainian foreign minister since 2010 and ways to boost tourism were high on the agenda.

Last year 800,000 tourists arrived in Egypt via transit hubs on flights that originated in Ukraine. Industry watchers say a significant number of arrivals were Russians using Ukrainian flights to circumvent Moscow’s ban on direct flights to Egypt.

Moscow stopped direct flights to all Egyptian airports after the downing of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai in 2015.

Shoukri underlined the importance of activating the two countries’ joint business council. The volume of trade between Cairo and Kiev was estimated at $2.4 billion in 2017, making Egypt Ukraine’s biggest African trade partner.

Egypt is a significant market for Ukrainian wheat and next month Alexandria will receive the first batch of Ukranian-made trams.

Klimkin met Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal before ending his two-day visit to Egypt. Shoukri is reported to have accepted an invitation to visit Ukraine extended during Klimkin’s visit but no date has been set.

In a meeting on Sunday with Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s minister for Europe and foreign affairs, regional issues including Syria, Libya and Palestine were discussed alongside bilateral relations.

In a joint press conference Shoukri said Paris had not asked Egypt to send military forces to Syria, a reference to speculation surrounding a US proposal to despatch a multinational force to the strife-torn country.

Egypt has long backed a political solution that will maintain the territorial integrity of Syria.

The meeting offered an opportunity for Le Drian to brief Cairo on France’s participation in this month’s limited air strikes against Syria.

During the press conference Le Drian said he had discussed a political solution that would lead to a roadmap out of the Syrian crisis with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. On Libya Le Drian had spoken with President Al-Sisi about the importance of sticking to the political roadmap set by UN Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salamé under which elections should be held before the end of this year.

On economic cooperation France said it would continue to help Egypt in implementing mega projects, as well as projects in the energy sector.

Trade between Egypt and France reached 2.5 billion euros by the end of 2017, up from 2.1 billion euros in 2016. Egyptian exports to France have increased by 25 per cent to reach 617 million euros, according to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Saturday.

France is the sixth biggest foreign investor in Egypt, and the third largest European investor with investments worth 4.4 billion euros. Some 140 French companies are present in Egypt.

Shoukri also met with Salamé in Cairo.

Salamé briefed Egypt’s foreign minister on the outcome of his talks with Libyan parties to de-escalate the situation and reach a national consensus.

Shoukri underlined Cairo’s commitment to UN efforts to reach a political settlement of the Libyan crisis and effect national reconciliation.

The meeting came within the framework of ongoing coordination with the UN, said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid.

Shoukri also met with his Yemeni counterpart Abdel-Malik Al-Mekhlafi on Sunday.

Al-Mekhlafi briefed Shoukri on the security situation in Yemeni cities and on efforts by newly appointed UN Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths to engage with international and regional parties.

Shoukri said that while Egypt supports UN mediation efforts a lasting solution to the crisis can only come from within Yemen.

During the three visits Shoukri briefed his guests on the latest advances in Egypt’s war on terror.

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