Egypt denies restoring full diplomatic ties with Syria

Ahram Online, Saturday 4 May 2013

When Egypt withdrew its ambassador from Damascus it downgraded its diplomatic ties with Syria, but the embassy remained open, officials say

The head of the Arab League called Monday for the fragmented Syrian opposition to unite and said a U.N.-brokered plan for a transitional government in Syria fell short of expectations. Speaking at the start of a two-day conference that brought together some 250 members of the Syrian opposition. (AP Photo)

Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied recent media reports that Egypt's acting ambassador in Syria has returned to Damascus, thus re-establishing diplomatic relations between Egypt and Syria.

"When Egypt withdrew Ambassador Shawqi Ismail (in February 2012) from Damascus, the acting ambassador (Alaa Abdel-Aziz) remained in place," Nazih El-Naggary, deputy spokesperson at the ministry, told Ahram Online.

"Egypt downgraded the level of its diplomatic mission in Syria, thereby sending a message on our government's position on the acts of [Syria's ruling regime]," he said. "However, we did not shut down our embassy in Damascus."

El-Naggary attributed recent media reports claiming that Abdel Aziz "has returned" to the fact that the acting ambassador was in Egypt recently, but returned to Damascus.

"[The Egyptian embassy] is needed as it allows us to communicate with Egyptians in Syria and gives us insight on what's happening there," he said.

"However, there is no change in Egypt's official position on Syria's [ruling Bashar El-Assad] regime," El-Naggary emphasised.

"We support the Syrian people fulfilling their aspirations ... and we prefer a political solution to the Syrian crisis," he said.

Unclear media reports had been circulating after Al-Jarida, the Kuwaiti newspaper, published a report Saturday saying that Iran has been exerting pressure on the Egyptian government to renew relations with Al-Assad's regime, which led "to the return of the Egyptian acting ambassador" to Damascus.

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