Turkey’s Erdogan meets Iran minister over Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on April 17. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2019

Turkey’s Erdogan meets Iran minister over Syria

  • Turkey supports Syrian opposition rebels and Iran backs Assad in Syria’s long war
  • The two sides have been expanding contacts amid international efforts to end the fighting

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday met with Iran’s foreign minister, who arrived in Ankara to brief him on his meeting with Syria’s President Bashar Assad.
Turkey supports Syrian opposition rebels and Iran backs Assad in Syria’s long war, but the two sides have been expanding contacts amid international efforts to end the fighting.
Kazakhstan will host a fresh round of Syria talks on April 25-26 in its capital, recently renamed from Astana to Nur-Sultan.
“I had a long interview with Bashar Assad. I will be giving details of these discussions to Mr. Erdogan,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in translated comments.
Ankara broke ties with Damascus in 2011 after the start of the Syrian war, and Erdogan has in the past described Assad as an “assassin.”
But Erdogan acknowledged in February that low-level contacts have been taking place and his rhetoric has also softened in tone in recent months.
“In Syria, from the start, on the ground, we do not agree with Iran on many issues,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday. “But we have decided to cooperate with Iran for a political solution.”
Repeated rounds of UN-backed Syria peace talks have failed to end the bloodshed, and Iran, Russia and Turkey have sponsored the parallel so-called Astana negotiations since early 2017.
Talks among the three countries have focused on the militant-held bastion of Idlib in northwestern Syria, local Syrian media have reported.
That region bordering Turkey, is mostly held by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, and is in theory protected from a massive Syrian regime offensive by a Russia-Turkey deal.
The September accord aimed to set up a buffer zone around Idlib, but was never fully implemented as militants refused to withdraw.


Grand Egyptian Museum symbol of Japan cooperation

Updated 20 August 2019

Grand Egyptian Museum symbol of Japan cooperation

  • The museum will house thousands of monuments and artifacts including mummies

CAIRO: The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), set to open in 2022, is already a beacon for future Egyptian prosperity.

Built to showcase Egypt’s civilization and heritage, the museum will house thousands of monuments and artifacts including mummies, as well as housing a very important restoration center which will help in preserving Egyptian Pharaonic heritage.

It is hoped the GEM will boost tourism, and act as beacon of a new, forward-facing nation in the aftermath of several years of political upheaval, and centuries of losing its treasures overseas.

Egypt began work on the museum in 2008 at a cost of approximately $550 million, with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities funding $100 million, with the remainder facilitated through a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in addition to local and international donations.

Covering the third phase of the build, Japanese support was not limited to the loan, but extended to the financial and technical support of the museum’s preservation and conservation center. 

Moreover, Japan currently supports the museum’s archaeological database and the team chosen to cultivate and manage it. 

The JICA also organizes a program that holds several restoration training sessions in both Egypt and Japan, in partnership with the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. 

Egypt’s Ambassador to Japan Ayman Kamel talked about the details of Japan’s participation in constructing the GEM.

“This project, which was launched years ago, is a success story in Egyptian-Japanese bilateral relations,” Kamel said.

BACKGROUND

It is hoped the Grand Egyptian Museum will boost tourism, and act as beacon of a new, forward-facing nation in the aftermath of several years of political upheaval, and centuries of losing its treasures overseas.

He added that Japan contributed in supporting one of the Egyptian centers specializing in monument restoration, providing “unmatched” Japanese eco-friendly materials and technology. 

Kamel predicted that following its inauguration, the GEM would be a source of pride not only for Egypt and Japan but also for the whole world.

“The final inauguration will take place in 2022 when all construction operations are completed.”

Japan’s Ambassador to Egypt Masaki Noke said the GEM was a “huge project that transfers heritage to the coming generations” and hailed Egypt for carrying out “this huge archaeological project.” 

Noke added that the Japanese were very happy to participate in this huge achievement which he considered of paramount importance “not only on the economic level but also on the human level in general.”

Around 42,000 Japanese tourists visited Egypt in 2018, adding to an increasingly large community of Japanese residents, and a sizable presence of archaeological missions working in the country.  

Egyptian archaeological expert Ahmed Kadry told Arab News that there are currently 10 Japanese archaeological missions in Egypt with universities and institutions.

Kadry said that the GEM’s inauguration in 2022 will change the perspective of museum tourism the world over, and hailed to work of Japanese and Egyptian archaeologists for their work in the field of diagnostic examination of monuments by using hand-held devices called XRFs, a primary examination machine using X-rays.

He added the results of such examinations provided useful information regarding the preparation of painted layers “which help in not only deepening the understanding of the condition of murals once they are restored but also in conducting more research to gain more knowledge in the field of archaeology.”

In July 2018, Dr. Tadayuki Hara, an associate professor and senior research fellow at the Institute for Tourism Studies, gave a lecture on how to improve the value of touristic assets in Egypt at the Japanese Embassy in Cairo, where he cited the importance of the GEM in Egypt’s future.

“Revenues can be created through great memories,” Dr. Hara said. “That can be achieved through the GEM, the project that Japan is taking part in constructing.”