'Egypt to pursue relationship with Hezbollah'

In shift from Mubarak-era policy, Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon says Brotherhood-dominated Egypt will engage terror group.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
December 29, 2012 08:56
1 minute read.
Hezbollah leader Nasrallah speaks to supporters

Hezbollah leader Nasrallah speaks to supporters 390 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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In a dramatic policy shift, Egypt will seek to forge “tight” relations with Hezbollah, Egyptian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Hamdy revealed in a candid interview published on Saturday in the Beirut-based Daily Star.

“You cannot discuss politics in Lebanon without having a relationship with Hezbollah,” Hamdy was quoting as saying, before describing the terrorist group as a “real force on the ground” with “big political and military influence.”

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Hamdy announced that Muslim-Brotherhood- dominated Egypt would begin “stretching [its] hand out in the proper, balanced way to all regional powers,” including Hezbollah, to forge “tight” contacts with Lebanon’s rulers.

Egypt-Hezbollah relations, generally strained under president Hosni Mubarak, in large part due to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, reached rock bottom in 2008 during Israel’s Cast Lead military operation.

At that time, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah called on Egypt, to no avail, to intervene militarily on behalf of Gaza-based Palestinians.

For its part, Egypt in the past has accused Hezbollah of operating terrorist cells in the country.

In his interview, Hamdy denied reports that Hezbollah had sent a delegation to Egypt to meet with officials from President Mohamed Morsi’s administration, but confirmed that he personally had met with members of Hezbollah’s political bureau in efforts “to understand each other better.”

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“In discussions we said we want Hezbollah to remain as a political force in Lebanon,” Hamdy said.

“Resistance in the sense of defending Lebanese territory... [is] their primary role. We... think that as a resistance movement they have done a good job to keep on defending Lebanese territory, and trying to regain land occupied by Israel is legal and legitimate,” he continued.

Hamdy concluded by saying that while domestic concerns had slowed Egypt from undertaking new, ambitious foreign policy objectives, the country ultimately sees itself playing an instrumental role in the region.

“Egypt’s soft power is its strength,” he said. “To expect 180-degree shifts in strong positions take some time.... Egypt will reveal itself as a real regional power and a ‘doer’ on the regional scene, and we are keen to show that.”

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