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07/08/2021

Egyptian diplomat: “This fighting of 11 days has proven that the Israelis are not secure”

Egyptian diplomat: “This fighting of 11 days has proven that the Israelis are not secure”

The Turkish-Egyptian Relations are at a critical turning point. After 8 years, the first diplomatic contact between the two countries was finally established in last May.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government is also stepping up its diplomatic initiatives in Libya, Gaza, Iraq and Qatar.

United World International has interviewed the Former Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister Rakha Ahmed Hassan about the Turkish-Egyptian relations, the latest situation in Libya, the Egyptian role in the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, the meaning of the meeting between President al-Sisi and the Jordanian King Abdullah in Baghdad and the details of the Egyptian-Qatari relations.

A Turkish diplomatic delegation has made a trip to Cairo for official contacts in May. Representatives of both countries commented positively on the contacts before and after the visit. What is the latest situation in the Turkish-Egyptian relations?

A Turkish official delegation visited Cairo. As it was mentioned at the time, it was an exploratory visit meaning that there were no exact requirements being put up, in order to make the relations of two countries normal again. This was clarified during the meetings. The Turkish delegation said they would return back to their headquarters and see what could be done for the requirements to improve relations clearly and restore them back to normal.

But it seems that there were some statements from high-ranking Turkish officials; for example the President and the Foreign Minister of Turkey said that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist organization but a political organization. These statements were made after the return of the delegation from Cairo. That means we have returned to same old situation back again. There were also some judicial verdicts in Egypt against some terrorist leaders who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood. They were sentenced to the death penalty. Turkish officials have criticized this verdict, and Egypt considered their criticism as an unacceptable intervention into its internal affairs.

Since this was a judicial verdict they should not have it criticized politically. Now, the situation is stable. There is no progress or regress; the relations are stalled. They are just as they were before the visit.

Is it true that an Egyptian delegation will also visit Ankara?

As I understand from our Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, it has not been decided yet. Of course it’s on the table, but it depends on the development of the situation on the Turkish side.

And also to the situation in Libya: it has returned back to what it was in the beginning, as Turkey declared that they would continue to stay there. The whole international community and the Security Council of the UN declared that all foreign troops, mercenaries and other foreign organizations should withdraw from Libya.

During the visit of the Foreign Minister and the Defense Minister of Turkey to Tripoli, they declared that they will stay, according the Memorandum of Understanding between Turkey and the former government of Libya. This is another point that Ankara and Cairo need to discuss.

Egypt was very active in the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza. The Egyptian government played a key role in achieving the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. What exactly was the Egyptian proposition in the Gaza conflict?

Egypt was keen to protect the population of Gaza, which are our Palestinian brothers. There is no comparison between the Israeli Armed Forces, considered to be one of the biggest in the Middle East, and the resistance organization with such modest and smaller weapons. They are just fighting against the occupation, for their liberation and to establish their own state according to the UN resolution.

We found that the Israelis were attacking the civilians and killing many innocent people. Even according to the US media, they killed 65 children. It was very urgent to stop this unfair fighting and the cruel Israeli attacks.

Now we have a ceasefire. It is not a permanent ceasefire, but just a halt to the fighting for the time being. The Israeli side asked for the exchange of hostages between them and Hamas.

Hamas had 3 Israelis, two of them were killed and one is still alive. Hamas said that they will release them after a permanent ceasefire, including the reconstruction of Gaza and when construction materials have entered Gaza. But the Israelis said that no materials would enter before an agreement about the hostages is reached.

We are still working on that, but as the media has reported, we have immediately sent equipment to rescue the people that were stuck under the rubbles of the destroyed buildings, and also for the reconstruction of those buildings. I think this work might take 2-3 months.

We are also working on that both sides reach a compromise and that the Israeli side allows the entrance of reconstruction materials to Gaza. For the moment they only allow the transport of medicine and food and other urgent materials. But still, they say they would allow these materials to enter when the exchanges of hostages has taken place.

We are trying to finish this problem as soon as possible and to get to the most important issue: peace negotiations for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The two-state-solution is the only reasonable one.

This fighting of 11 days has proven that the Israelis are not secure, and they cannot live in security without solving the Palestinian problem. All their arms and weapons could not protect them. So they have to reach this agreement. The Americans also agree with Egypt on that.

But the problem is the forming of a Palestinian coalition government and to reorganize the postponed the elections. Still, as you see, the Palestinians have many problems between themselves.

Egypt was considering Hamas as a branch of Muslim Brotherhood, but now we see that Egyptians officials had meetings with Hamas leaders. Could we say that Egyptian approach against Hamas is changing in a positive way?

Well, I do not agree that the word “against” is appropriate, for one simple reason; Hamas is controlling Gaza, and Egypt borders Gaza in the east. So we are cooperating with Hamas on a daily basis.

From administrative issues, to security and political matters, on there is cooperation on really every field. Because Rafah is the only point of entry to Gaza.

Yes, we still have some differences but when it comes to killing of the Palestinian people and destruction of their homes, we know that Israelis are not fair and they are following very cruel policy against the Palestinians.

That is why we interfere and raise the level of communication between Egypt and Hamas, because we are dealing with a very sensitive issue here.

On the other hand, the performance of Hamas during these 11-days of fighting changed the quality of resistance against occupation.

They proved that they have to be taken into consideration in any peaceful settlement and in any negotiation.

Now, the Israelis still consider Hamas as a terror organization, but this approach doesn’t work anymore. Even the Europeans said that we have to find a way to come to an understanding with Hamas, directly or indirectly.

Now for Palestinian public opinion, Hamas is in the front line and Fatah is not at the same level as before.

Let us come back to Libya. You mentioned that Libya is one of the main problems between Turkey and Egypt. What is exactly the Egyptian proposition for Libya?

Libya is only one of the issues and not the main problem. It is better to use the word ‘issue’ instead of ‘problem’.

This is not only Egypt’s proposition but the position of the whole international community and the Security Council of United Nations, the European Union and the United States: that foreign all troops and organizations have to withdraw from Libya.

And during the second Berlin conference for Libya, on 23rd of June, Turkey’s withdrawal from the region was not clear because of Libyan National Army that was leaded by Haftar.

This is another problem. The situation in Libya is very complicated.

First of all groups have to withdraw all the mercenaries, from both sides. Both the GNA and Haftar.

Even in Libya, there are two opinions; one wants them to stay until the elections and the other one wants them to withdraw immediately.

Even within the government itself. For example the Foreign Minister of Libya, Ms. Najla Mangoush, demands the immediate withdrawal of all troops and armed organizations, while the Primer Minister demands that only for the armed organizations, not mentioning the troops. It is a complicated issue.

What about Egypt? Does Egypt have any military presence in Libya?

No, we don’t.

At a certain time, some Libyans asked Egypt to send troops, but we refused it because we were thinking about the future. Because, if we had entered on one side and against the other, it would not have been good for us.

Now we have communication with all parties in Egypt, without exceptions. We open our embassy. We have good relations with all within the government and with Haftar.

President Sisi visited Baghdad and met with King of Jordan there. Could you explain this Egyptian-Jordanian-Iraqi initiative?

These 3 countries came together before in Cairo and Amman and now it’s the turn for Baghdad.

The main purpose is to increase the trade and investments among these 3 countries and to study the reconstruction of destroyed areas of Iraq.

Iraq needs the reconstruction of these areas and the building of infrastructure there, whereas Egypt has the experience in this field since the war in October 1973. We have a lot of experience in these matters.

We have experience on electricity, drinking water, sewage, bridges, airports and even public housing.

But the instability in Iraq is still a huge problem; Iraq needs to reach stability. We hope that the elections in October, which will be held on time, and the consecutive government will realize that stability and end these political and ideological conflicts.

This initiative is not against any country or group. It’s open to anyone who wants to join.

Lastly, how do you evaluate last situation between Egypt and Qatar?

The relations between Egypt and Qatar are improving. We already appointed an ambassador, who will be going to Qatar end of August or beginning of September. We are still waiting for the approval from the Qatari government.

We exchange visits between foreign ministers, President Sisi and Emir of Qatar exchange invitations to visit Cairo and Doha.

Qatar is moving forward to improving relations between two countries, that is what we hope that Turkey will do too.

Onur Sinan Güzaltan
Onur Sinan Güzaltan was born in Istanbul in 1985. He had his Bachelors's degree in Law, from the Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne Universty /Paris XII and a Master's degree in International and European Law. He got his certificate of diploma equivalence at Galatasaray University. Later, he got a Master's degree in International Trade Law, at the Institut de Droit des Affaires Internationales, founded jointly by the Sorbonne Universty and the Cairo Universty. In this process, he had served as the Cairo representative for the Aydinlik Newspaper. He has several articles and television streams within the international press, in such as People's Daily, Al Yaum, Al Ahram, Russia Today FranceAl Youm Al Sabea. In addition to being the author of the Tanrı Bizi İster Mi?, a work that studies the 2011-2013 political period in Egypt, he had also contributed to the multi-author study titled Ortadoğu Çıkmazında Türkiye, with an article that focused on the Turkish-Egyptian relations. While currently working as a lawyer, he also writes a weekly column for Aydinlik Newspaper on the subject of international politics and geopolitics.

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