Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Egypt: 'Attack too small to stop calm'

From Ynetnews (10.17.05, 19:16) ...

Egypt's ambassador to Israel, Assam Ibrahim...describes terror attack as 'too small to destroy process of calm' in the region
Ali Waked

Egypt's ambassador to Israel, Assam Ibrahim, does not frequently address the Israeli public directly....Hours after the drive-by terror attack in Gush Etzion, in which three Israelis were murdered,...Ibrahim's faith in regional calm is unshaken.

In an interview with Ynet, Ibrahim expressed optimism, saying, "with all due respect, a small attack" wouldn't endanger moves towards creating calm in the region. He rejected accusations in Israel that the Egyptians abandoned the Gaza- Egypt border for a number of days, allowing unrestricted movement, saying: "It's natural that people who haven't met with their families for dozens of years will break though in the way they did. The Jews, who suffered in the past, can understand the needs of these people who were under occupation."

Mr. Ambassador, we were witness to terror attacks resulting in Israelis being killed, and a Palestinian wanted figure being killed in Jenin. Is the calm which Egypt has worked for collapsing, or can it be saved?
"There's no reason to talk about the saving the calm, because it's not crashing...It will create a (negative) impression on the international community, and the Arab, and the Israeli public opinions, it will create the illusion that the peace process is in danger, or even crashing....The Palestinians must understand that another attack won't change the Middle East, and Israel must understand that shooting one wanted Palestinian or another won't solve the conflict."

Will Egypt now try and coordinate a ceasefire among Palestinian factions, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad?
"We are in daily contact with them – and I emphasize daily contact - with the Palestinian Authority and all the organizations, with the entire Palestinian public sectors in the world...."

Has Egypt changed its preparations on the Egypt-Gaza border, in Rafiah, after Israel's harsh criticisms about the open border in the first few days (after the disengagement?)
There is always criticism in Israel and there is always a lack of satisfaction. The nation in Israel is critical in a constant way, it criticizes itself, its government, and its press. ... What has happened in Gaza, with all its importance – and I am aware of the suffering that the Israeli society has gone though,... but it is till half a step...and if Israel wants security and hopes for a peace-seeking Palestinian state, the second half step must be taken, in order to know if the whole step was correct."

In Israel, figures such as Knesset Committee Chairman Yuval Shteinitz have criticized your border activities and said they are not enough.
"I don't want to address specific people and committees."

Mr. Ambassador, the head of the IDF's Intelligence Corps has reported on the presence of al-Qaeda in Sinai. He said that the organization has set up a real base there.
"The Head of Intelligence has the right to say what he wants as we have the right to express our view. I'm not going to put on the hat of Egyptian security officials and discuss their work against cells, which could be in Sinai, and who have caused attacks that we saw in Taba and in Sharm el-Sheikh. There is a problem, and the security forces are dealing with it, but I'm not an expert on the details, and I don't know if al-Qaeda are there or not. These details are being left to our security people, but up to now I haven't heard that al-Qaeda have a branch in Sinai."

... How would you classify Israeli – Egyptian relations today?
"Relations are good. In recent months since the intifada started to calm down, and since the Sharm el-Sheikh understanding, we reestablished full diplomatic relations. There are economic deals, gas deals, and other arrangements, and Israelis now come to Cairo and lecture in front of hundreds of people – that means there is an improvement. Relations are still not fully open the way peace seekers would want to see. But they developing securely.

When will President Mubarak come to visit Israel?
"In principle there is nothing to prevent the president from visiting Israel. It's a matter of timing, and the right conditions for both sides...There is the Palestinian problem which is central to the Egyptian public opinion, and when relations between the Israelis and the Palestinians move away from violence… the Egyptian people will see this and calm down, and relations will improve. When this happens, the president will be first to feel the momentum that will allow a visit and will contribute to the success of the process."

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