Egypt’s president-elect Mohamed Morsy denied on Monday that he told an Iranian news outlet of his plans to “review” the country’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and to renew his country’s ties with Tehran.
Iran’s Fars News, which has ties to the Revolutionary Guards, published a lengthy interview on its Persian language website on Monday, which it said Morsy gave in Cairo hours before the official runoff results were declared on Sunday. The news agency even released what it claims is an audio tape of the interview, although pan-Arabic news channel Al-Arabiya quoted unnamed experts who said that the voice on the recording was not Morsy’s.
A spokesman for Morsy told Egypt’s official MENA news agency on Monday that “Morsy did not give any interview to Fars and everything this agency has published is baseless.”
The remarks Fars quoted in the interview contrasted sharply with promises Morsy made during his presidential campaign and in other interviews, in which he pledged to honor Egypt’s international agreements, including its peace treaty with Israel.
The treaty remains a linchpin of US Middle East policy and, despite its unpopularity with many Egyptians, was staunchly upheld by Hosni Mubarak, who also suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood movement to which Morsy belongs.
Late on Monday, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency rushed out a report stating that Morsy had denied the interview ever took place.
In the interview Fars published, the news agency had said the president- elect told them that his country’s policy toward Israel would be “one of equality, because we are no less than [the Israelis] in any way,” and that he planned to discuss with Israel the issue of the Palestinian “right to return.”
“Of course all this will be done though the government and the cabinet, because I alone will not make any decision,” Fars quoted Morsy as saying.
The comments Fars said Morsy made also appeared to contradict his Sunday night acceptance speech, in which he promised to “preserve all national and international agreements.”
However, Morsy has raised the issue several times before, threatening in February to “review the peace treaty with Israel if US cuts aid [to Egypt].”
Fars said Morsy also pledged in the interview to restore ties between Tehran and Cairo. Iran cut all official ties with Egypt in 1979, in response to the Camp David Accords that were signed the previous year.
Israel did not officially respond to Morsy’s alleged comments to Fars.
But Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak – all made public statements on Monday in support of the peace treaty with Egypt.
“Israel appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects its results,” Netanyahu said during a joint press conference with visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We look forward to working together with the new administration on the basis of the peace agreement between us. I believe that peace is important to Israel. I believe that peace is important to Egypt,” Netanyahu said.
“I believe that peace is a vital interest to both countries and I believe that peace is a fundamental pillar of stability in the region,” he said.
Peres said, “I wish to send my greetings to the elected president. We will honor and respect the peace treaty between us, because peace is the real victory for both of us.”
Also on Monday, Revolutionary Guards-linked Mashregh News cited Iranian chief of staff Seyed Hassan Firouzabadi as saying Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had “no legal or political legitimacy” – an accusation he also leveled at the leaders of Gulf state Bahrain. A government’s legitimacy came either from the popular vote or “divine appointment enshrined in the divine religions,” Firouzabadi said.
On June 17 – made before the presidential runoff results were announced – SCAF issued a supplementary constitutional declaration that significantly limits the president’s powers and grants SCAF complete control over Egypt’s military affairs.
Although Morsy will be able to form and dismiss a government and legislate, he would need SCAF’s approval to declare war.
The declaration further stipulates that SCAF will play a key role in drafting the country’s new constitution.
On Monday afternoon, EU foreign ministers also expressed concern about SCAF’s June 17 declaration, saying it could “delay and hinder the transition and full handover to civilian rule.”
In his acceptance speech late on Sunday night, Morsy called for unity, saying that “Egypt is for all Egyptians, all of us equal in our rights and in our responsibilities to this nation.”
In that speech – which mentions the name of God 22 times – Morsy paid tribute to the “revolutionary martyrs” who led the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Notably, he did not criticize SCAF’s decision to dissolve parliament, but praised military personnel and said they, the police and judges had a role in Egypt’s future.
Also on Monday, Morsy held his first official meeting with SCAF head Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and the rest of the military junta, which lasted one hour, according to Egyptian daily Al-Ahram. The newspaper cited unnamed defense ministry sources as saying that Tantawi congratulated Morsy and told him SCAF would support his presidency.
Late on Monday night, Al-Ahram reported unnamed government sources as saying Morsy will be sworn in on Saturday by the High Constitutional Court.
Tovah Lazaroff and Reuters contributed to this report.