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Sunday, 1 October, 2000, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Bashar seeks Arab solidarity
Presidents Mubarak and Bashar al-Assad
President Assad chose Egypt for his first foreign trip
The Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, is visiting Egypt on his first foreign trip since succeeding his father, Hafez al-Assad, who died in June.

He was greeted at the airport by President Hosni Mubarak, who took him back to the presidential palace for an official salute by a guard of honour.

The Syrian ruling party's newspaper, Al-Baath, said President Assad's choice of Egypt reflected the importance he attached to Arab coordination.

Bashar al-Assad spent his first weeks in power concentrating on domestic issues - now he is venturing into foreign policy.

Peace negotiations

During his two days in Cairo, the new Syrian leader is expected to discuss the possibility of reviving Syria's peace negotiations with Israel.

President Bashar al-Assad
Syria's new leader still hopes for peace with Israel
They were broken off in January, after Bashar's late father rejected an Israeli offer to withdraw from most of the Golan Heights but keep control of the north-eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

On Wednesday, the new president told a European Union envoy that Syria was still aiming to achieve what he called a just and comprehensive peace.

But as the Al Thawra newspaper put it, to negotiate with strength, the Arabs need solidarity.


To that end Syria has repeatedly called for an Arab summit to be held as soon as possible.

The Egyptian newspaper Al-Akhbar said that the talks between Mr Assad and Mr Mubarak "will again demonstrate to Israel and others Egypt's total support for Syria".

But relations between the two countries themselves have not always been easy: Hafez al-Assad scorned Egypt for signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

And Egypt and Syria are known to disagree over the timing of such a summit, which also raises awkward questions over attitudes toward Iraq.


Efforts to hold Arab summits in recent years have foundered on Kuwait's reluctance to agree to the inclusion of Iraq, which invaded it in 1990 and was left out of the latest summit in 1996.

Analysts say that Egypt is wary about rushing into a gathering which might only highlight Arab divisions.

However, the increasing number of international flights to Iraq in recent weeks - by Arab countries as well as France and Russia - has raised new questions about Iraq's diplomatic isolation.

Egypt's foreign minister, Amr Musa, said Iraq would be among the topics discussed by the two presidents.

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See also:

13 Jun 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Bashar's challenges
22 Aug 00 | Middle East
Syria's youth look to Bashar
12 Aug 00 | Media reports
Syrian media court glasnost
29 Jul 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Syria's changing face
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