CAIRO, Sept 11, 2012 (AFP) -
CAIRO, Sept 11, 2012 (AFP) –
British Foreign Secretary William Hague is to hold talks on Syria and post-revolution Egypt during a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Tuesday, his office said.
Hague, on his first visit to Egypt since the Islamist president’s election, arrived late Monday in Cairo where he is also scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, the Foreign Office said.
“The last 18 months in Egypt have been some of the most dramatic in the countrys long history. It is an exciting and challenging time for Egyptians and I am delighted to be here,” Hague said on arrival in Cairo.
“The UK and Egypt have a longstanding and strong relationship and I look forward to working with the new president and his ministers. We will discuss how the UK can support the political and economic transition in Egypt and further expand our commercial links,” he said.
“We will also discuss important foreign policy issues, in particular how the international community can work together to bring an end to the bloodshed in Syria,” he added.
Hague’s visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in Cairo where UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi held talks on Monday with top Arab officials as he began what he called a “very difficult” mission to bring peace to Syria.
“I realise it’s a very difficult mission, but I think it is not my right to refuse to give whatever assistance I can to the Syrian people,” Brahimi said in Cairo, adding he planned on going to Damascus within a “few days.”
Cairo also witnessed late Monday the first meeting of a regional contact group with delegations from Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia gathering to discuss the deteriorating situation in Syria.
Representatives of the four nations were expected to lay the foundations of a ministerial meeting in the coming days, the Egyptian foreign minister said.
“The ministerial meeting might take place next week,” a Turkish diplomat told AFP.
Morsi proposed such a meeting in August at a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia — which suspended Syria’s membership — amid UN Security Council divisions over the conflict.
Britain, France and the United States are clamouring for more sanctions on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and on the need to speed up the transition in Syria.
But Russia insists on a negotiated settlement that would involve all the players of the nearly 18-month conflict which has killed more than 27,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The United Nations puts the overall death toll at 20,000.