CAIRO: Egypt has reacted strongly to remarks allegedly made by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki regarding his description of participants in the direct peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel that kick off in Washington Thursday as “traitors”.
As a result, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement Wednesday that it had cancelled a meeting with Mottaki scheduled for Sunday in Cairo to do with the Non-Aligned Movement troika — Egypt, Iran and Cuba — and summoned the Iranian Charge d’Affaires in Cairo for a clarification on Mottaki’s remarks.
The Charge d’Affaires was informed that the troika meeting was to be rescheduled for the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The Iranian Fars news agency reported that Mottaki had said during a speech he was giving in a Tehran mosque that “Some Palestinian leaders, who are for compromise, are these days following an order from America and building the table of negotiation with heads of the Zionist regime. They should know that they are traitors to the Palestinian people and the negotiation is a nail in the coffin of [those who support] compromise.”
Assistant Foreign Minister Wafaa Bassem said in the foreign ministry statement that the Iranian Charge d’Affaires was summoned to explain Mottaki’s comments on “the participation of certain Arab leaders” in the launching of the talks.
Nabil Abdel-Fatah, an analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Daily News Egypt, “It is a natural reaction from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, because Mottaki’s comments are an attempt to cast doubt on the Egyptian, American and moderate Arab states’ efforts to resume the peace talks.”
“It is part of the attempts by the Iranian axis in the region to influence the current peace talks which do not include Iranian allies like Hamas, so it is expected that Egypt respond in such a manner,” he added.
President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah were both in Washington for the day before the direct talks begin. Egypt and Jordan have long been part of the peace process that has been on a rocky road even before Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and Israel launched a 22-day offensive on the territory in Dec. 2008 that resulted in over 1,300 Palestinian deaths.
The resumption of direct peace talks has come under criticism from moderate and liberal Palestinians and Palestinian supporters because of the decision to waive any pre-conditions prior to the talks, notably the demand that Israel cease all settlement construction immediately.
This, however, had nothing to do with the Iranian comments, argued Abdel-Fatah who said, “regardless of the actual possible success of the talks and the serious obstacles it faces, the Iranian comments are an attempt to blur the issue.”