Analysis: Sharm e-Sheikh summit gives needed boost to Egypt and its diplomatic efforts
Egypt has been criticized for not fully opening its Rafah border crossing to besieged Gazans who wish to leave.
By BRENDA GAZZAR, JPOST CORRESPONDENT, CAIROPublished: JANUARY 18, 2009 23:34Advertisement
Sunday's international summit in Sharm e-Sheikh was an important boost for Egypt, which was seeking affirmation from the international community that its diplomatic efforts on the Gaza crisis were regarded as important and useful.
Throughout Israel's 23-day military offensive against the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, Egypt has borne a great deal of wrath from countries such as Syria, Iran and Qatar, which have criticized it for not fully opening its Rafah border crossing to besieged Gazans who wish to leave.
Egypt was also angered, and perhaps a bit embarrassed, when Israel chose on Sunday to bypass Egypt's phased cease-fire initiative by adopting a unilateral cease-fire on its own terms.
But the attendance of top leaders from countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Turkey, along with UN chief Ban Ki-moon, showed that Egypt was still relevant, and more significantly, that it was not giving up on the peace process or on its traditional leadership role so easily.
"These were leaders who want to come to Egypt to show their support for Egypt and its efforts to establish peace, and to regain the calm that used to exist and to avoid the collapse of the stability of the region," Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told The Jerusalem Post. "It was very well received by Egypt, and by the whole camp that Egypt represents - the peace and pro-stability camp."
Egypt, one of two Arab countries that has signed a peace treaty with Israel, wanted to demonstrate its international backing - and support for its policies vis-Ã¡-vis Israel - on Sunday after Qatar on Friday hosted its own summit on the Gaza crisis, which was boycotted by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
It was in Doha that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal denounced Israel and called on Arab and Muslim states to cut ties with the Jewish State.
Not only was it a message to the Arab world, it was also a message to Egypt's own populace, where mass protests have taken place and the regime's Islamist opposition has accused it of collaborating with Israel.
The meeting was also an opportunity to convince European leaders to work with the Palestinian Authority, and not with the Hamas leadership, regarding arrangements for securing the Palestinian side of the Philadelphi Corridor and the Rafah border crossing, said Emad Gad, head of the Israeli unit at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
Egypt, which is trying to secure a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, will not accept any international forces on the Egyptian side, since it says it violates its territorial sovereignty. However, it supports deploying international troops on the Palestinian side of Rafah to prevent smuggling - one of Israel's chief concerns. Egypt is also seeking an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to lift the blockade and open the border crossings with the presence of the PA.
It remains unclear whether Hamas still has enough strength to control Gaza after Israel's devastating military offensive against the movement's leadership.
"We don't know what will happen tomorrow between the Palestinian factions," Gad said.
Meanwhile, Arab foreign ministers agreed Friday in Kuwait to allocate $2.5 billion for the reconstruction of Gaza once a cease-fire was reached between Israel and Hamas.
Qatar recently announced that his country would donate $250 million in aid for rebuilding Gaza, implying that it would go through Hamas rather than through Abbas's government in the West Bank.
Observers suggest that it would be difficult for Qatar or Iran, which supports Hamas and helped Hizbullah rebuild Lebanon, to funnel money or aid through Hamas into the Gaza Strip, since aid would be channeled under the umbrella of the PA.
An Arab economic summit will be held in Kuwait on Monday, where the issue of Gaza reconstruction is expected to feature prominently on the agenda.
AP contributed to this report
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