CAIRO President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt on Tuesday for the first visit by an Iranian leader in more than three decades, marking a historic departure from years of frigid ties between the two regional heavyweights.
Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi gave Ahmadinejad a red-carpet welcome on the tarmac at Cairo airport, shaking the Iranian’s hand and exchanging a kiss on each cheek as a military honor guard stood at attention.
Ahmadinejad’s three-day visit, which is centered on an Islamic summit, is the latest sign of improved relations between the countries since the 2011 uprising ousted Egypt’s longtime ruler President Hosni Mubarak and brought an Islamist government to power in Cairo.
Such a visit would have been unthinkable under Mubarak, who was a close ally of the U.S. and shared Washington’s deep suspicions of Tehran.
Shortly after his arrival, Ahmadinejad and Morsi held a 20-minute talk that focused on the civil war in Syria, security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Iran is Damascus’ closes regional ally, while Egypt is among those that have called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.