New Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi’s office yesterday confirmed the contents of a letter he sent to Israel’s President Shimon Peres, calling for strengthened relations between the two countries.
Incoming Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Atef Salem presented his credentials to President Peres on Wednesday. He also handed over a letter from his country’s new President Mohammed Mursi, which addressed Peres as a “great and good friend” and expressed a desire for “maintaining and strengthening the cordial relations which so happily exist between our two countries.”
Mursi, who represents the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, has previously stated his intention to honour Egypt’s decades-old peace treaty with Israel, but has been reluctant to embrace Israel as a friend. Muslim Brotherhood leader Gamal Muhammad Heshmat told the Egyptian media two days ago that the letter to Peres had been “fabricated” by the “Zionist media.” However, Mursi’s spokesman Yassir Ali told Egyptian state-run newspaper Ahram that the letter was “100 per cent correct.”
Ties between Israel and Egypt have been at times strained since the election of Mursi’s Islamist government. Last week, the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme leader Mohammed Badie said that “holy jihad” is the only way to deal with Israel, as “Zionists only know the way of force.” Egypt-Israel relations have been further complicated by the deteriorating security situation in the Sinai Peninsula. However, the appointment of Atif Salem, Egypt’s first Ambassador in Israel for a year, is an important development. Salem said this week on taking up his position that Egypt is, “committed to all the agreements we signed with Israel and we are also committed to the peace treaty with Israel.”