World Bulletin / News Desk
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt on Tuesday on the first trip by an Iranian head of state since the 1979 revolution, underlining the thaw in relations.
President Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood politician elected in June, kissed Ahmadinejad as he disembarked from his plane at Cairo airport. The leaders walked down a red carpet, Ahmadinejad smiling as he shook hands with waiting dignitaries.
Visiting Cairo to attend an Islamic summit that begins on Wednesday, the president of the Shi'ite Islamist republic is due to meet later on Tuesday with the grand sheikh of al-Azhar, one of the oldest seats of learning in the Sunni world.
"The political geography of the region will change if Iran and Egypt take a unified position on the Palestinian question," Ahmadinejad said in an interview with Al Mayadeen, a Beirut-based TV station, on the eve of his visit.
He said he wanted to visit the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territory which neighbours Egypt to the east and is besieged by Israel. "If they allow it, I would go to Gaza to visit the people," Ahmadinejad said.
At the airport the two leaders discussed ways of boosting relations between their countries and resolving the Syrian crisis "without resorting to military intervention", Egyptian state media reported.
Egypt is broadly supportive of the uprising against Assad's administration.
"The restoration of full relations with Iran in this period is difficult, despite the warmth in ties ... because of many problems including the Syrian crisis and Cairo's links with the Gulf states, Israel and the United States," said one former Egyptian diplomat.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of preparatory meetings for the two-day Islamic summit, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he was optimistic that ties could grow closer.
"We are gradually improving. We have to be a little bit patient. I'm very hopeful about the expansion of the bilateral relationship," he said. Asked where he saw room for closer ties, he said: "Trade and economics."
Ahmadinejad's visit to Egypt follows Mursi's visit to Iran in August for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, head of the 1,000-year-old al-Azhar mosque and university, will meet Ahmadinejad at his offices in mediaeval Islamic Cairo, al-Azhar's media office said.
Salehi, the Iranian foreign Minister, stessed the importance of Muslim unity when he met Sheikh al-Tayeb at al-Azhar last month.Last Mod: 05 Şubat 2013, 13:26