Egypt slammed over canceled summit

Arabs wont sit with FM,

October 26, 2009 23:07
3 minute read.

It is regrettable that Egypt is playing a "negative role in the region," a senior Foreign Ministry official said on Monday, responding to the cancellation of a scheduled meeting of EU and Mediterranean states in Istanbul in November because Egypt did not want to sit around the table with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. "It is a shame the Egyptians are playing a negative role in the region and taking a meeting that was aimed at improving the standard of living of Egypt's neighbors, and turning it into a political tool," the senior official said. France, the moving force behind the Mediterranean Union, which had its inaugural meeting in Paris in July 2008, in the presence of then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad, canceled the meeting planned for late next month rather than disinvite Israel. The Egyptians led a campaign of Arab states trying to keep Lieberman out of the conference. The Mediterranean Union, which includes the 27 member-states of the EU along with 16 countries across the Mediterranean and the Middle East, was originally French President Nicolas Sarkozy's pet project. Egypt is currently co-president of the union, along with the rotating president of the EU. By leading this campaign against Lieberman, sources in the Foreign Ministry said, Cairo was both "harming its own interests" and "angering the European states." The Egyptians have essentially blackballed Lieberman since he became Foreign Minister at the end of March, and have apparently not gotten over Lieberman's comment during a Knesset debate in October 2008 in which he said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "can go to hell" if he does not want to come to Israel. Lieberman also once suggested that in the event of war with Egypt, Israel should bomb the Aswan Dam on the Nile. Mubarak has visited Israel only once, for prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's funeral in 1995. Lieberman tried to clear the air with the Egyptians in April, just after becoming foreign minister, when he praised Egypt as an "important country in the Arab world and a factor in the stability of the regional system and perhaps beyond it." "I will definitely be visiting Egypt, and I will be happy if the Egyptian leaders will visit us here, and the foreign minister of Egypt will visit the Israeli Foreign Ministry," he said at the time. "I certainly respect the other and ask that they respect us, all on the basis of reciprocity." In the meantime, Lieberman has neither visited Egypt, nor has the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, visited him. He has, however, met once with Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. In a related development, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who in recent weeks has through various actions and statements seriously strained ties with Israel - accused Lieberman in an interview published in The Guardian on Monday of threatening to attack the Gaza Strip with a nuclear weapon during Operation Cast Lead. The paper did not provide any specifics. A spokesman's in Lieberman's office said there was no need to "respond to every piece of nonsense." During the interview, Erdogan insisted that the strategic alliance between Israel and Turkey still existed, even as he praised Turkey's relationship with Iran, where he will visit later this week. "There is no doubt he is our friend," Erdogan said of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called on several occasions for the destruction of Israel. "As a friend so far we have very good relations and have had no difficulty at all." In Istanbul on Monday, some 500 pro-Islamic Turks held an anti-Israel protest over recent clashes between Arab rioters and security forces in Jerusalem. The protesters marched toward the heavily guarded Israeli Consulate and burned an Israeli flag, chanting "We will protect Al-Aksa mosque." Meanwhile, last week the perennial Armenian Genocide resolution was introduced in the US Senate, calling on President Barack Obama "to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide." A similar resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year. While Jewish organizations have in previous years lobbied against this resolution, in recent weeks - since the crisis in ties with Turkey broke out over Ankara's barring Israel from participating in a multilateral military maneuver - some voices have been raised saying that this policy should be reassessed.

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