Egyptian trade delegation, recalled last week, to return Thursday

Egyptian official tells 'Post' Cairo delegation was recalled due to "technical reasons."

Egypt stocks 88 248 (photo credit: )
Egypt stocks 88 248
(photo credit: )
An Egyptian commerce delegation that was suddenly recalled to Cairo last week during talks with Jerusalem officials will return to resume work on Thursday, officials from the two countries said Tuesday. "The Egyptian delegation, which was recalled last Thursday because of technical reasons, will return to Israel on Thursday… to review the talks with their Israeli counterparts from the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor," an Egyptian official told The Jerusalem Post. The delegation is part of the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) committee, a technical body composed of Egyptian, Israeli and American representatives that meets once every three months to discuss implementation of the December 2004 QIZ agreement. The agreement created a number of commercial zones around Cairo, Alexandria and the Suez Canal, and goods produced there with Israeli raw materials are exported duty-free to the United States. Officials at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry welcomed the decision and said they could now get on with business. "It was some kind of an obstacle that we had to overcome," said Gabby Bar, co-chairman of the QIZ committee and an official at the ministry's Foreign Trade Administration. "Now it is has been resolved and we will continue." At the time, Israeli officials on the QIZ committee said they had been told by Egyptian committee members that the recall had to do with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's dissatisfaction with the Israeli government's behavior vis-á-vis talks on a new tahadiyeh (cease-fire) and kidnapped IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit. The security cabinet voted last week to make the full opening of the Gaza crossing points - a key Hamas condition for a cease-fire agreement - contingent on Schalit's release. Egyptian officials strongly criticized the government's decision, saying it was a last-minute change on Israel's part - a claim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denied. However, Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda told the Foreign Ministry on Thursday that the delegation had been recalled "for technical reasons." An Israeli diplomatic official said the talks were being held in the interest of both peoples and were designed to improve economic relations between the countries. "If they suspended it for political reasons, it would be natural to assume that they were returning for political reasons," he said. In related matters, Mauritania, the third Arab country to have had full diplomatic relations with Israel, still has not resumed ties since severing them during Israel's three-week military operation in the Gaza Strip last month. In addition, the Israeli trade office in Qatar has not yet reopened since the Arab country closed it during Operation Cast Lead. The diplomat who had been in charge of the Qatar trade office was recently appointed to serve as Israel's No. 2 at the embassy in Moscow, the official said. "He certainly is not sitting here and waiting for the Qataris to change their minds," he said.