Cairo: US, Europe should deal with any gov't Palestinians agree on

Speaking to Post, Foreign Ministry spokesman urges Europeans and Americans not to "repeat the mistakes of the past."

By BRENDA GAZZAR
March 18, 2009 22:54
4 minute read.
Cairo: US, Europe should deal with any gov't Palestinians agree on

Hamas Fatah 248.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
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Egypt has been urging Europe and the US to deal with whatever government is agreed on by the rival Palestinian factions negotiating in Cairo, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "We have been adopting this position in the past weeks in order to allow for a different dynamic altogether," Hossam Zaki said. "We want the Europeans and the United States to deal with this government formed by the Palestinians and not to put obstacles in this domain and repeat the mistakes of the past. This is what Egypt is trying to do." "You have to deal with the government and accept what the Palestinians are accepting," Zaki said. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier this month that America's conditions with respect to Hamas "have not and will not change." The Islamist organization must renounce violence, recognize Israel and agree to abide by previous agreements entered into by the PLO, she said. When asked whether Egypt thought Israel would recognize a government that included Hamas without the movement recognizing the State of Israel, Zaki replied: "I don't know and the issue is not whether Israel lives with it….This is not the main concern. Israel is the occupying power. It doesn't have to be accommodated on each and every thing." Hamas and Fatah have been trying to reconcile and form a national unity government. However, they have been wrangling over how to address past Palestinian agreements with Israel. The formation of a PA unity government is seen as key to moving ahead with reconstruction in Gaza after Israel's recent offensive there. Egypt has been mediating the talks, which have hinged on whether Hamas has to "commit" itself to past PLO agreements with Israel or if it could just "respect" them. The language is sensitive because Hamas, which calls for Israel's destruction, is wary of wording that could convey an implicit recognition of Israel. The main issue, Zaki said, was to allow the PA to form a government of consensus and for it to be accepted by the international community. Zaki said that after the Palestinians agreed on a unity government in 2006, the West refused to deal with it and radicalization ensued. "The dynamics that followed showed that this has put more extremism in the ranks of the government, and in the Authority and in public opinion in Palestine," he said. "This mistake should not be repeated again." When asked whether Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman went to Washington this week to convince the Americans to accept a future Palestinian consensus government, Zaki responded "no more than [Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed] Aboul Gheit tried to do, no more than when Clinton came here. He is an Egyptian official who is contacting the American administration on many issues and the Palestinian issue is at the forefront of those issues." As for Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who is set to become the next foreign minister, Zaki said it was too early to comment on the issue. "We are still far from this point," he said, noting that a new Israeli government had yet to be formed. "We are following closely what is going on and we are concerned that if this government is going to be taking positions that will not support the peace process and the two-state solution, this will bring us all back to square one, and it will be a really unfortunate thing to happen," he said. Egypt's relationship with Israel was based on the 1979 peace treaty signed between the two countries, an obligation that Cairo did not take lightly, he said. "It is a relationship that has been defined very carefully and Egypt stands by its obligations and legal commitments," Zaki said. "The question is whether the new Israeli government is going to be supportive of the peace process and the two-state solution." Also on Wednesday, Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Yasser Reda said that statements attributed to him in a conversation he held this week with Likud MK Ayoub Kara were not accurately reported. Kara was cited by Israeli media as saying Egypt would invite Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu for an official visit as soon as he took office. It was also reported on Wednesday that the ambassador told Kara that Cairo was willing to forget past threatening statements made by Lieberman. But Reda said Kara's statements were "not precise at all." Concerning an invitation for Netanyahu to visit Cairo, "it is an issue that will be determined by the leadership in Cairo and not by the ambassador," Reda said in a statement. "It is too early to talk about a visit before the formulation of a new government in Israel," he said. "Concerning Avigdor Lieberman, the ambassador did not relate to this issue at all with Kara," Reda continued. "And Kara is not authorized to pass on messages or declarations in the name of the Egyptian ambassador, and if the ambassador wanted to pass on some kind of message, he would speak directly to the Israeli leadership," he said. AP contributed to this report.

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