CAIRO: A delegation headed by the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern made a brief trip to Cairo Thursday as part of his Middle East tour
Ahern s trip comes on the heels of President Hosni Mubarak s historic visit to Ireland in December, and incorporates Israel, Palestine and Lebanon.
Egypt s Minister for Trade and Industry, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, hosted bilateral trade talks with Ahern, following which it was announced an Irish trade mission comprising over 70 members, had been planned for Autumn 2007.
Trade (between Ireland and Egypt) is not as large as we would like, said Ahern, following the meeting, alluding to a falloff in trade from Euro 200 million annually to just Euro 75 million in 2005.
The delegation arriving next Autumn will promote investment and expand ties in Human Resources, Development and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
During the meeting a program for educational, artistic and cultural exchanges between Ireland and Egypt was also confirmed.
After a working lunch held at the Tahrir Palace, Foreign Ministers Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Ahern, stated their agreement that the EU and the West should engage Syria in Middle East peace talks.
Syria, Ahern said, is too influential in the region to be excluded.
The issue of Iraq was also raised. We accept the objectives of the project President Bush is planning to present, said Aboul Gheit. There is a need to open up the Government, and (through the necessary amendments) to encourage more Sunnis to partake in a democratic Iraqi Government.
Ahern added that he condemned terrorism in Iraq, mentioning the suffering caused by similar violence in his own country.
The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister then met with the General Secretary of the Arab League Amr Moussa, with the humanitarian crisis in Sudan topping the agenda.
The crisis, Ahern said, was of great concern to the Irish people. He stressed the importance of unity within the International community in urging the Sudanese Government and rebel groups to reach an agreement. He also praised Egypt and the Arab League for their respective roles in attempting to alleviate the conflict.
On Wednesday, Ahern pledged Euro 11.4 million in aid to Palestinian refugees during his visit to the West Bank on Wednesday, and both he and Moussa expressed their hopes for an end to Palestinian fighting, and the formation of a unity Government in the near future.
The Irish delegation flew out to Lebanon late Thursday night to visit Irish soldiers working on reconstruction efforts in the country in the wake of last summer’s war with Israel.