Iranian leader on historic visit to Cairo

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a three-day visit to Egypt on 5 February when he was welcomed to Cairo by Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

The historic event marks the first time an Iranian leader has visited Egypt in more than three decades, and suggests a warming in relations between the nations.

The two leaders engaged in high-level talks on the ongoing civil war in Syria, which has resulted in 60,000 casualties. The Syrian situation is an extremely sensitive subject given that Iran is a close ally of Syria’s president Bashar Assad while Egypt is among those calling on Assad to step down.

As part of his visit Ahmadinejad will meet Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world's premier Islamic institution. The Iranian leader is also due to attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit which begins in Cairo on 6 February.

The once-close ties between Egypt and Iran deteriorated after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and Egypt's peace treaty with Iran’s nemesis Israel. However relations have been improving between the two countries since the Islamist Morsi was elected as Egypt’s president following the ousting of his predecessor Hosni Mubarak two years ago.

Analysts believe the visit is being observed closely by Sunni Gulf nations, in particular Saudi Arabia which is strongly opposed to Iran’s regional policies.