The merger of the two nations, Egypt and Syria, had first been proposed to Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser as the first step towards a revolutionary pan-Arab state in the Middle East. Nasser was popular throughout the Middle East and Africa as a result of the Suez Crisis of '56, and forged ahead with the concept. The united state was formed on 1 February 1958, with a formal agreement signed (following a referendum) on 22 February. Nasser was elected as the president of the UAR, and Cairo selected as the capital.
Nasser extended his previous one-party state from Egypt to the whole of the UAR, harshly dealing with rebellious groups such as the Syrian Communist Party. Hostile relations with neighboring states such as Jordan led to international pressure being applied in the region.
In 1961, a coup d'état brought the union to an end. On 29 September, Syria's acting head of state, Maamun Shafiq al-Kuzbari, declared the country to be once again independent. Egypt retained the title United Arab Republic until 2 September 1971 when it became the Arab Republic of Egypt.
The flag of the UAR was developed from that of Egypt - red, white, and black horizontal bands with the addition of two green stars in the middle. This was retained as the flag of Syria after its secession in '61.