Egyptian FM says Israel won’t receive ‘special treatment’

Elaraby: Security arrangements stipulated in peace agreement are "reviewable."

By OREN KESSLER
April 3, 2011 23:36
2 minute read.
Nabil Elaraby

Elaraby 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Israel viewed deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak as a “treasure,” Cairo’s new foreign minister said Saturday, but the days when Israel could do as it pleases are over.

Nabil Elaraby said in an interview on Egyptian television that Cairo reserves the right to review security arrangements stipulated in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, and that any such arrangements can be “amended” with the signatories’ agreement.

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Elaraby said the Sinai peninsula is not a completely demilitarized zone, as stipulated in the agreement, but that his government keeps a limited military presence in various sectors of the peninsula and police units in the border zone with Israel.

The foreign minister said the agreement does not allow for Israel to receive “special treatment” in the prices Egypt charges for natural gas.

“Any issue is negotiable,” he said, while adding that the issue would ultimately be decided within the confines of the Petroleum Ministry.

Egyptian media have reported that the government exports natural gas to Israel at prices lower than the cost of production.

Elaraby insisted that his government remains an important player in the Middle East peace process, and that “the Palestinians want peace, but Israel has not yet met their demands.”

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Egypt’s military rulers appointed Elaraby – an attorney who formerly served as the Egyptian ambassador to the UN and as a judge in the International Criminal Court – to the foreign minister post on March 6 as part of a cabinet reshuffle intended to meet popular demands for political reform.

On Saturday, Elaraby described Iran as an important nation in the Middle East and did not rule out renewing diplomatic ties with Tehran, adding that most countries in the world, with the exception of Israel and the US, have ambassadors in Tehran.

Last week, he expressed similar sentiments, affirming that Egypt views no country as an “enemy state,” and calling for “opening a new page” with the Islamic republic.

Additionally, he characterized Hezbollah as part of Lebanon’s political and social landscape, and welcomed communication between Cairo and the Iranian-funded militant group.

Elaraby’s Iranian counterpart welcomed the remarks.

“A good relationship between the two countries will definitely help stability, security and development in the region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said, according to a frontpage story in the English-language Tehran Times.

Salehi reaffirmed Iran’s support for the Egyptian revolution, saying, “The Egyptian people by taking steps toward realizing their just demands opened a new chapter in the history of the country, and again I congratulate them on this victory.”

He touted the “historic relations” between the two states and said he “hopes in the new environment, we witness an upgrade of relationship between the two countries and the two great nations of Iran and Egypt.”

Sunday’s Tehran Times included a news brief on three “resistance fighters” killed in Gaza Friday by aircraft of the “Zionist military,” and a color piece on Major League Baseball’s opening day.

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