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Cairo not mediator, standing with Palestinians – Egypt Ambassador to Palestine | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Osman, has stressed that Cairo is not a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, but stands firmly on the Palestinian side. He added that Egypt is undertaking every effort to stop the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip, confirming that the Israeli side initiated the conflict and that the actions on the part of the Palestinian factions are nothing more than self-defense.

The Egyptian ambassador, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from Ramallah, also asserted that “the diplomatic and political actions that are being taken by Egypt aim to provide support to the Gaza Strip, whilst we also sent a message to the Israeli side regarding the need to stop the aggression.”

Egyptian presidential spokesman Dr. Yasser Ali announced on Wednesday that President Mohamed Mursi had taken the decision to recall the country’s ambassador to Israel in response to the Israeli air strikes targeting the Gaza Strip. Mursi also ordered the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to summon Israel’s ambassador to Cairo to issue an official protest against Israel’s actions.

Speaking to Egyptian state TV, the Egyptian presidential spokesman said “President Mursi has followed the Israeli brutal assault in which a number of martyrs and sons of the Palestinian people were killed. On this basis, he has recalled the Egyptian ambassador from Israel; has ordered the Egyptian representative at the United Nations to call for an emergency meeting of the Security Council…and summoned the Israeli ambassador in Egypt to protest over the assault.”

For his part, Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Osman, said that “one of Egypt’s objectives is to put an immediate end to this aggression because it is not in anybody’s interests for this aggression to continue and for more Palestinian blood to be shed.”

Osman also denied the Israeli media reports that Tel Aviv had asked for Egyptian mediation for a ceasefire following the killing of Hamas commander Ahmed al-Jabari, stressing that “Egypt is not a mediator; we are on the Palestinian side to stop the Israeli attacks against it.”

He added that Cairo has called for Arab and international intervention to stop the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, adding “Egypt is primarily concerned with stopping the aggression, before talking about any ceasefire.”

The Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority also denied that Cairo was in contact with the Palestinian factions to stop the rocket fire into Israel as a step on the road to a ceasefire. He told Asharq Al-Awsat “the Israeli side began the aggression, and what the Palestinian resistance factions are doing is self-defense.” He added “it is up to the party that began the aggression to stop this.”

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil conducted a three-hour visit to the Gaza Strip on Friday during which he condemned Israel’s aggression on Gaza as a “disaster.” Qandil visited the Council of Ministers building Gaza City, as well as a hospital treating those wounded in the attacks.

The Egyptian Prime Minister said “what I am witnessing in Gaza is a disaster and I can’t keep quiet. The Israeli aggression must stop.” He also insisted that “Egypt will spare no effort … to stop the aggression and to achieve a truce.”

Israeli deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon also indicated that Tel Aviv would be interested in a ceasefire, telling Israeli radio “if Hamas says it understands the message and commits to a long ceasefire via the Egyptians or anyone else, this is what we want. We want quiet in the south and a strong deterrence.”

He added “the Egyptians have been a pipeline for passing messages. Hamas always turns (to them) to request a ceasefire. We are in contact with the Egyptian defense ministry…and it could be a channel in which a ceasefire is reached.”

However it seems clear that Egypt’s foreign relations approach has changed significantly since the ouster of the Mubarak regime and the election of a Muslim Brotherhood-backed president. President Mohamed Mursi, speaking on Friday, stressed that Cairo “will not leave Gaza on its own” and called Israel’s attacks on the territory “a blatant aggression against humanity.” Whilst protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square calling for the downfall of Israel, adapting a popular Arab Spring slogan.

Mursi made the comments in a speech following Friday prayers. He stressed that “Cairo will not leave Gaza on its own…Egypt today is not the Egypt of yesterday, and Arabs today are not the Arabs of yesterday.”