By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
CAIRO, Egypt -- The foreign minister of Guyana, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, has arrived in Cairo, Egypt, to attend the 12th Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) heads of government summit, representing President Donald Ramotar at the invitation of Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi.
Already in Egypt is Guyana’s ambassador to Kuwait, Dr Odeen Ishmael, who participated in a meeting of senior officials on Saturday. The foreign ministers' meeting was due to begin on Monday.
The expected arrival of Suriname’s foreign minister, Winston Lackin, did not materialize and representing Suriname in Cairo is Kitty Sweeb, Suriname’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, who has participated in various OIC forums in the past.
Egypt’s assistant foreign minister, Amr Ramadan, said that crisis in Syria, Mali, Israeli settlements in Palestine, Islamophobia and economic issues will dominate these meetings leading up to the 12th OIC summit, which begins on Wednesday.
Both Guyana and Suriname are members of the OIC. Suriname joined the OIC in 1996 and Guyana in 1998. The 12th summit has been postponed twice due to the ongoing upheavals confronting the Middle East and ongoing civil unrest in Egypt.
These high level delegations from Guyana and Suriname indicate the importance that these two CARICOM states place on solidifying stronger ties with the OIC, a 57-member group with some of the richest countries in the world -- Azerbaijan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- in order to attract foreign direct investments and capital.
The 12th OIC Summit is expected to be attended by some key economic powers from the Islamic world, especially in that the Sunni Arab Alliance is keen to keep Egypt from warming up to Iran. The Sunni Gulf States have offered billions of dollars in aid to Egypt. So far, 26 heads of states have confirmed attending the summit, according to the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make the first visit by an Iranian leader to Egypt since diplomatic ties between two most populous Arab countries ruptured in 1979. The president of the world’s largest Islamic country, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, and President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, another emerging economic and political world power, will attend the summit.
The upcoming visit of the secretary general of the OIC, Dr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, to Guyana and Suriname in March is a clear indication that the OIC is serious in forging stronger ties with these two countries and presidents Desi Bouterse of Suriname and Ramotar of Guyana are also keen to demonstrate their commitment to OIC ties.
Ihsanoglu is looking to forge stronger economic cooperation with Guyana and Suriname during his upcoming visit.
According to a release from the OIC Mission to the UN, “Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu pays special importance to bringing Guyana and Suriname into the fold of cooperation under the OIC projects, particularly in the field of economic development.”
It will be the first such visit by an OIC head to these two countries.
Egypt and Guyana have always had close ties. Egypt was one of a few Arab countries to have had an embassy in Guyana during the administration of Guyana’s former president Forbes Burnham.