'Iran ensured Egypt's presence' at Syria peace talks

'Iran ensured Egypt's presence' at Syria peace talks
2 min read
01 February, 2017
A new batch of leaked discussions between Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has revealed Iran's influence in ensuring Cairo's presence at the Syria peace talks.
Iran imposed a condition to include Egypt in the talks [Getty]

Iran lobbied for Egypt to be involved in the Syria peace talks last year, despite the US preferring not to extend an invitation to Cairo, a batch of new leaks revealed on Tuesday.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif imposed a condition to include Egypt in the Lausanne talks, according to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in a recording leaked by opposition news channel Mekameleen.  

"[Then-US Secretary of State John] Kerry spoke to me about an hour and a half ago and proposed that I attend the Lausanne meeting," Shoukry says in the leaks.

"He told me clearly that Zarif made it a condition that Egypt attend."

Egypt is one of the few Arab countries to provide quiet backing for the Syrian regime. Videos have shown Egyptian weaponry used by regime forces, despite an Arab League arms embargo on Syria.

The US diplomat had previously "excluded" Egypt from the negotiations, Shoukry noted, suggesting the talks were specifically for "parties that have military impact on the ground, and therefore they did not want to involve Egypt".

"The invitation came after they initially decided not to invite us," Shoukry said in the tapes.

"The Russians proposed inviting us but it was the Americans who initially objected. The Russians [then] did not insist."

The discussion between Sameh and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi concludes with the foreign minister saying he will ensure  Kerry issues "a statement in which he stresses that he extended the invitation".

"We will also…issue [a statement] that I received the invitation from him."

The leaks, which could not be immediately verified, are the latest to be made public by the opposition channel after a similar batch was revealed two years ago.

Among the topics discussed in the fresh batch, which includes five recordings, is Shoukry's meeting with new US Vice-president Mike Pence, Egypt's relations with Hilary Clinton, as well as a rift between Cairo and some GCC states, notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar.