egyptian ambassador 311.
(photo credit: Ron Friedman)
Marking last month’s 31st anniversary of the peace treaty between Israel and his country, Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda addressed a full house at Tel Aviv University on Wednesday, talking about bilateral relations, regional peace, Gilad Schalit and the Iranian nuclear threat.
When the Arab League meets next week, it will once more back the Palestinian Authority entering into US-mediated “proximity talks” with Israel, the ambassador predicted.
“Thirty-one years ago, two great leaders, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, may their souls rest in peace, took a brave and unprecedented decision to end war and agony, and adopt instead peace and cooperation to pave the way for future relations between Israel and Egypt,” Reda said. “The peace treaty enabled our two countries to start a huge normalization process that continues to this day.”
“President Mubarak has always asserted that peace is in Egypt’s strategic interest. He has taken the responsibility to fulfill the vision that he inherited from the late president Sadat. He believes that Egypt has a continuing role in regional diplomacy and to present a convenient and practical solution to the conflict between the Palestinian people, Syria and Lebanon on one side and Israel on the other, believing that peace is the only sustainable option for the region,” Reda continued.
“Egypt has backed and still does, the Arab peace initiative, adopted by the Arab summit in 2002 as a comprehensive, practical and applicable solution to end the conflict and build up peace and security and includes a generous offer of peace and normalization between 22 Arab countries and Israel,” the ambassador said, reiterating that the Arab League had given PA President Mahmoud Abbas the blessing to go ahead with proximity talks with Israel, soon followed by direct talks.
The league rescinded this blessing when plans were announced for new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem, but the league is set to reconsider the issue next week.
“The recipe for stability and security for everyone in the region exists, and it is clear to everyone that the shared interest of everyone is achieving a lasting peace based on international legitimacy,” Reda said, stressing Egypt’s role in smoothing out regional conflicts and tensions.
When the floor was opened to questions for the audience, the first question was about Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit calling Israel an enemy state after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri in Beirut last week.
Reda answered by reiterating Egypt’s formal response that the statement was taken out of context and that he referred to Israel as an enemy of Lebanon and not Egypt. He then quipped that he wouldn’t be in Tel Aviv at the head of a diplomatic mission if Israel and Egypt were enemies.
Reda said Egypt had done all it could to enable a prisoner exchange that would see kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit return to Israel.
“It is in the hands of Israel and Hamas to move ahead with the prisoner
exchange. We will continue to assist in this case and all others. As
you saw today, we were quick to return the Israeli guy who accidentally
crossed the border into Egypt and saw him return safely to his family,”
the ambassador said.
Reda was cautious on Iran, but when asked about its nuclear program, he
said, “We are all against radicals, both countries and groups. We are
trying hard and tirelessly along with other moderate Arab countries in
the region to face the radicals who will destroy our region unless we
do [face them],” he said. “We would like to see the region clean of
weapons of mass destruction and are against any country or group having
them... We will fulfill our role to contain any country’s desire or
attempt to obtain nuclear capabilities, which will effect the whole
region and spark an arms race that will erase what Begin and Sadat
achieved and produce hell instead of heaven.”