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MIDEAST > Israel invites Morsi to counter Tehran influence

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Israeli PM Netanyahu (2nd R) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (L) stand in front of a burned Egyptian military vehicle. REUTERS photo

Israeli PM Netanyahu (2nd R) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (L) stand in front of a burned Egyptian military vehicle. REUTERS photo

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he was encouraged by Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi’s recent statement that secured the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, and invited him to visit the country. The invitation came as relations between Iran and Egypt have started to warm.

“Those who speak of peace and stability must realize that it cannot be a hypothetical peace,” Lieberman said during an Israel Bar Association conference on Aug. 28. Lieberman was referring to a recent interview in which Morsi said he would pursue a “balanced” foreign policy, reassuring Israel that its peace treaty was safe. Morsi repeated his position that Egypt would continue to abide by international treaties, including its 1979 peace deal.

“We certainly hope to see Morsi hosting official Israeli representatives soon; we want to see him giving interviews to Israeli media; we want to see him in Jerusalem as President [Shimon] Peres’ guest,” Lieberman told the conference, according to Ynet news website.

‘Happy to hear Morsi speak of peace’

Without mentioning Israel by name, Morsi also indicated Egypt’s neighbor had nothing to fear from a new military campaign in the Sinai Peninsula, which he ordered after gunmen attacked an Egyptian border post, killed 16 guards and tried to burst across the frontier into Israel. “I was happy to hear Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi speak of Egypt’s commitment to peace with Israel, to the Camp David peace accords and to the battle against terror,” Lieberman said, Egypt Independent reported.

Relations with Egypt have remained cool despite the treaty. Calling these relations “very important tidings,” Lieberman said, “But whoever talks about peace and stability must understand that it cannot just be vague and hypothetical.”

Cairo’s relations with Tehran had also been severed for three decades. Tehran broke diplomatic ties with Cairo in 1980, after the Islamic revolution in Iran, to protest against Egypt and Israel agreeing to their 1979 peace treaty. But in the latest sign of warming relations between the two countries, Morsi will visit Tehran to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit. Morsi’s presence in Iran will be notable because it will be the first by an Egyptian leader since 1979. Also, Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi recently said Tehran was keen on establishing relations of “friendship and brotherhood” with Cairo.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood reacted immediately against Lieberman’s remarks by describing his invitation of Morsi to Israel as “diplomatic rebelliousness.” The group said, “There is no possibility for Morsi to visit the Zionist entity.”

Shafiq on travel watchlist

A senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Gamal Heshmat, said that “accepting Israel’s invitation would be unimaginable.” He noted that even ousted President Hosni Mubarak only visited Israel once, to attend Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral, despite the fact he considered Israel a “strategic asset.” Meanwhile, the former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who left Egypt amid a corruption probe after losing to Morsi in elections, has been placed on a watchlist and given a travel ban, judicial sources said.

Shafiq, a former air force chief appointed prime minister by president Hosni Mubarak before his overthrow early last year, is under investigation for an allegedly illegal sale of state land to Mubarak’s sons. He travelled to the United Arab Emirates after losing to Morsi in June’s election.

August/30/2012

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