The visit comes weeks after a deadly earthquake rocked Syria and neighboring Turkey, killing several tens of thousands of people. Egyptian state media described Shoukry as “the most senior Egyptian official to visit Damascus” in over a decade. Relations between Damascus and several other states in the Middle East and North Africa have been strained since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. Following the earthquake, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called the head of Syria’s government, Bashar al-Assad. This was the first official exchange between the two leaders. Egypt then sent three planes and two boats with humanitarian aid to Syria. The government in Damascus has been politically isolated in the region since the start of the Syrian Civil War 12 years ago. While Egypt has largely maintained relations with Syria, the Cairo-based Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in 2011 and a number of member states have severed ties with Damascus. Earlier this month, Jordan’s top diplomat Ayman Safadi also visited Damascus, as did the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nayan. Cairo’s official position on the war in Syria calls for a “political solution” in the country, falling short of explicitly demanding that Assad step down from leadership.