On Wednesday (13 January) Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, at the Federal Foreign Office. Their discussions focused on the situation in the region, German-Egyptian cooperation, and the attacks in Istanbul the day before.
The German death toll from the Istanbul attack has now risen to 10.
The discussions were overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in Istanbul’s old city the day before, said Steinmeier. “Unfortunately we can now say with sad certainty that (...) there were 10 German victims.” Almost all those killed in the terrorist attack were German nationals. However, Steinmeier said that there was no indication so far that a German group had deliberately been targeted.
Fight for the minds of young people
With an eye on the situation in Egypt, the Minister emphasised that: “We know that Egypt, too, faces a very real terrorist threat.” However, military means alone would not suffice to defeat this form of extremism: “We need to fight for the minds of young people.” Steinmeier stressed that the main thing was to ensure “as many people as possible in society are on board” and wherever possible to do everything to “seek a political solution.”
Discussion of the regional situation
Steinmeier also discussed the recent tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia with his counterpart Shoukry. “A new confrontation is the last thing this region needs at the moment,” he said. Both Foreign Ministers agreed to work to ensure that “the new tensions (...) do not destroy everything we achieved towards a political solution for Syria in the last months of last year.” For this reason Foreign Minister Steinmeier had also invited the coordinator of the Syrian opposition groups, Riad Hijab, to visit Berlin for talks.
Egypt also had a very particular interest in a political solution for Libya. The “Government of National Unity”, which was initiated during the talks held in Rome shortly before Christmas, now needs security conditions in Libya that enable it to begin its work. Steinmeier emphasised that “Everybody must help to bring on board those who oppose and block this agreement.”
Enhancing the German-Egyptian relationship
Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his counterpart Shoukry also discussed the expansion of economic relations between Germany and Egypt. “We know that the Egyptians have huge expectations as regards jobs, growth and opportunity,” said Steinmeier. But German businesses also have a great interest in Egypt.
Tourism, Steinmeier went on, was an important sector for the Egyptian economy. The Foreign Ministers discussed how they could cooperate even more closely on the security of holidaymakers, hotels and air travel.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier emphasised that Germany was wholeheartedly committed to the dialogue and to the work of the German foundations. He hoped that “we can put the difficulties of the past behind us as soon as possible and that the foundations will be able to resume their work in the usual environment again.”