Mursi makes first Israel contact in Peres letter

President’s Residence rebuffs Egyptian denial that correspondence took place.

July 31, 2012 17:38
2 minute read.
Mursi attends a meeting with Mashaal in Cairo

Mursi (370). (photo credit: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/ Reuters)


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Newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi sent President Shimon Peres a brief note Tuesday, marking the first time he has had formal contact with Israeli leaders.

The note arrived just hours before US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta landed in Cairo for talks with Mursi. The US has made clear to the new Egyptian government on numerous occasions that it expects Cairo to live up to all of its international commitments, including the peace treaty with Israel.

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Mursi made no reference to the treaty in his note, which was in response to a message from Peres on the eve of Ramadan – which began last Friday – sending greetings for the holiday.

“Mr. Shimon Perez (sic), president of the State of Israel,” Mursi’s note read. “It was with deep thanks that I received your congratulations on the advent of the holy month of Ramadan.

“I take this opportunity to reiterate that I am looking forward to exerting our best efforts to get the Middle East peace process back to its right track in order to achieve security and stability for peoples of the region, including [the] Israeli people.”

Following publication of the note, the Egyptian media – according to the Amman base Al Bawaba web site – reported that Mursi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali, denied that the note was ever sent.

“President Mursi has not sent any letter to his Israeli counterpart. This information does not correspond to reality,” he was quoted as saying.

The President’s Residence responded by saying they were very strict about always checking with the other side before publicizing private correspondence with the president. This protocol was followed in this case as well. The note was transmitted to Peres through the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv.

Diplomatic officials speculated that the denials were likely the result of political pressure on Mursi after reports of the note were widely publicized in Egypt.

Peres’s letter on the eve of Ramadan was his second to Mursi. He also wrote him last month following Mursi’s election victory, at the same time that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a letter. Both letters stressed the importance of maintaining the 1979 peace agreement.

Mursi did not publicly responded to either letter. One diplomatic official said, however, that there have been “ongoing talks with the Egyptians.”

Another diplomatic official said it was “good” that Mursi responded to Peres. But he cautioned about reading too much into what he said was a very general message that did not leave a lot of room for a continuation of the interaction.

Peres, in the congratulatory letter he sent Mursi last month after his election, wrote: “As someone who took part in the process that led to the peace agreement that was signed between my country and yours, I know that both Egypt and Israel attribute supreme importance to regional peace and stability – which serve the interests of all peoples in the region.

“All of us in Israel greatly respect Egypt and the Egyptian people, who have served as pioneers and have outlined the way of peace and reconciliation in the region, and we know that the work is not yet finished,” he continued.

Mursi, after he was sworn into power, stressed in a speech that he would stand by the Palestinian people.

At the same time, he also said Egypt would respect its international treaties.

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