Thursday, March 31, 2011

Egypt extends olive branch to Iran; seeks to normalize ties

International Business Times

Nabil Al-Arabi
Egypt extends olive branch to Iran; seeks to normalize ties Egypt’s new foreign minister Nabil Al-Arabi has said that his country also would like to turn over a new leaf with respect to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"Iran is a state in the region, and we have had long-term historical ties with it over the different periods," al-Arabi told a press conference. "We will turn over a new leaf with all states, including Iran."

Al-Arabi cautioned that restoring diplomatic ties will depend on the Iranian side.

Iranian’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has welcomed Egypt’s statements and said that better relations would improve security in the Middle East. He added that he hopes there will be "an expansion of relations" between Cairo and Tehran.

Salehi also indicated that "despite the ups and downs, the historical ties between the two countries have been sustained."

Iran and Egypt have not had formal diplomatic relations since the 1979 Iranian Revolution when the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was given exile in Cairo by his friend Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

A year before that, Iran ended diplomatic ties with Egypt when Sadat signed the Camp David peace treaty with Israel.

More recently, Iran has been blamed by Egypt for using Syria and Hezbollah to expand its influence in the Arab world.

Iran’s President Nabil Al-Arabi viewed former president Hosni Mubarak as too closely allied with the U.S. and Israel.

Asked about Hezbollah, al-Arabi responded: "Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's composition, and we see this as an internal matter… If any party wishes to have ties with Egypt there will be nothing preventing us from talking, but we will not become involved in internal matters."

In 2010, Egyptian security forces arrested dozens of men connected to Hezbollah and convicted them of planning a terrorist campaign in Egypt. Twenty-six of the defendants were sentenced to very long prison terms.

Al-Arabi is widely known to be anti-Israel and has suggested the Jewish nation be tried for genocide.

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