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Touching base with Pakistan
Published in Ahram Online on 16 - 02 - 2021

Egypt plays a key role in the Middle East, while its deep links with the African continent make it a gateway to Africa,” read the statement issued by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry ahead of Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi's three-day visit to Egypt. Qureshi arrived in Cairo on Tuesday night, Doaa El-Bey reports.
Pakistan and Egypt enjoy close relations, share a common faith, culture and values, and face similar challenges when it comes to coronavirus and terrorism, noted Ali Al-Hefni, former deputy to Egypt's Foreign Minister. “It is therefore important to hold periodic bilateral meetings to discuss issues of common interest,” he said, adding that “the two countries have similar views on a range of regional and international issues.”
Egypt is in a position to open doors for Pakistan in Africa. “During its chairmanship of the African Union in 2019, Egypt noticeably improved its relations with African states and can help Pakistan enhance its presence in Africa. And in the light of the ongoing rivalry between India and Pakistan, it is only to be expected that Pakistan will seek to open up its relations across the African continent, not least in response to the India-Africa Forum, an official platform for African-Indian relations that holds regular summits,” Al-Hefni added.
During the three-day visit, Islamabad also hoped to benefit from Egypt's expertise in social housing. Pakistan is currently considering expanding its densely populated cities.
The crises in Libya and Syria were also high on the agenda.
Qureshi's visit included consultations with Egyptian officials and businessmen, as well as members of the Pakistani community in Egypt. They discussed ways to strengthen bilateral trade and develop scientific and cultural cooperation. The visit also tackled the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic and ways of combating terrorism.
Qureshi's visit followed an invitation from his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukri, and came on the back of meetings between Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Mecca in 2019 and at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York the same year. During the meetings the two leaders agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation and enhance high-level exchanges.
Last year, Khan discussed his Global Initiative on Debt Relief in a telephone conversation with Al-Sisi. The initiative aims to provide debt relief for developing countries and free up funds to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
In the most recent call between Shoukri and Qureshi in December the two ministers expressed a desire for continuous coordination.
Cairo and Islamabad have jointly signed more than 40 agreements and work together closely in the multilateral arena, in particular the United Nations, OIC and the Non-Aligned Movement.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 February, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly


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