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Egyptian cabinet named, Israel’s gas still suspended

Renewed clashes took place in Cairo over the weekend, pitting demonstrators opposed to the role of Egypt’s internal security services against the army. Egypt remains governed by a Supreme Military Council, which has promised renewed parliamentary elections within six months. A clear gap, however, remains between the demands of the protestors, and the slow pace of change favoured by the current military rulers of Egypt. The latter, in an attempt to accommodate the protestors yesterday, announced new appointments to the foreign, justice, and interior ministries. Nabil Elaraby, a former International Court of Justice judge, has been named Minister of Foreign Affairs.  According to reports, Elaraby in the past has voiced reservations over some of the clauses in the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, which he helped to negotiate. Though holding reservations Elaraby is likely to abide by all of Egypt’s existing commitments to Israel. However, as foreign minister he is likely to be more open towards establishing diplomatic relations with Iran and improving Egypt’s relationship with Syria.

Meanwhile, according to a report in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, Egypt is refusing to renew its supply of natural gas to Israel more than a month after an attack near the main gas line running through the Sinai Desert brought the flow of gas to a halt. The Egyptians claim technical problems are causing the holdup, but officials in Jerusalem maintain that the problem is political as Egypt is wary about making any moves that could be interpreted as political gestures towards Israel. To deal with this specific issue, as well as the broader issue of maintaining the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty, the Director of the Political-Security Staff in the Defence Ministry Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad will leave for Egypt soon.