CAIRO: On Saturday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit received Iraq’s new ambassador to Egypt, Nizar Eissa Al Khairullah, the first appointed to Egypt after two decades of patchy diplomatic relations.
During the last 20 years, Iraqi-Egyptian diplomatic relations have been intermingled, the last Iraqi ambassador having left Egypt in August 1990 after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, triggering the first Gulf war.
In 2003, after the US-led invasion of Iraq, Cairo and Baghdad resumed their diplomatic relations and reopened their respective embassies.
But things did not go as planned: Iraqi ambassador to Egypt, Safiya Al Saheil, never took up her position – for unknown reasons – and Egyptian ambassador to Iraq, Ihab Al Sherif, was famously kidnapped and murdered in July 2005 by Al-Qaeda militants.
With Iraqi-Egyptian relations steadily improving in recent years — especially on the economic side, where Egypt has become one of Iraq’s main trade partners — the two countries decided last year to reopen their respective diplomatic missions, which led to the appointment of Sharif Kamal Shahine as the new Egyptian ambassador to Iraq in June 2009 and the recent appointment of Al Khairullah to Egypt.
Al Khairullah is a member of the Dawa Party led by current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. According to an article published by Al Jazeera on May 23, Al Khairullah’s appointment by the Iraqi government is an attempt to politically balance “the appointment of the new Iraqi Ambassador to the Arab League last month, Qays Al Azzawi, a member of the Arab National Movement in Iraq.”
Indeed, Al Khairullah’s appointment comes at a moment where the Iraqi internal situation, and the country’s future, are blurred and destabilized by the results of the recent parliamentary elections.