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Egypt Reaffirms 'Deep Ties' to Abbas's PA

PA Chairman received a letter from Egypt's de facto ruler, Gen.Tantawi, reaffirming bond between Cairo and Ramallah.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 3/2/2011, 5:43 PM / Last Update: 3/2/2011, 7:09 PM

Egypt's de facto ruler, General Mohamad Hussein Tantawi, has sent a letter to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stressing the deep ties and relations between the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, the Palestine News & Information Agency reported Tuesday.

The reaffirmation of ties between Egypt and the Palestinian Authority could imply a rejection of radical Islamic politics on Egypt's domestic front, as the Muslim Brotherhood is closely allied with Hamas, the PA's main rival who violently seized control of Gaza in 2006. Tantawi's government has no official contact with Hamas. During Egypt's February protests Hamas sent its men to stir the pot of violence alongside Muslim Brotherhood.

Tantawi was Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces until he was elevated to Interior Minister and assumed leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces during the February protests that led to Hosni Mubarak's abdication of the Presidency. Mubarak, after 18 days of protests, transferred authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Tantawi, of Nubian origin, is a combat veteran of the 1956 Sinai War, 1967 Six Day War, and 1973 Yom Kippur War – all against Israel. In his letter, delivered by Egypt's ambassador to the PA Yassir Othman, Tantawi said Egypt will continue to work on all fronts of its interests and foreign policy priorities, adding that he looked forward to consultation and coordination between Egypt and the PA. The move is largely seen as an attempt by Tantawi to maintain Egypt's historic influence in the region.

Tantawi's views on Egypt's interests vis-a-vis Israel and relations with the Jewish state remain an enigma, though the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has stated it would uphold the 1979 Camp David Accords, signed by then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat, following Mubarak's departure. The accords, in which Israel ceded the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, required Egypt to allow Israel access to the Suez Canal and forbade the militarization of the Sinai by Egypt's Armed Forces.

Tantawi, who technically shares power with the Chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Farouk Sultan, has dissolved Parliament and appointed a new interim cabinet after Mubarak's departure, prompting leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, to dismiss claims of reform and characterize Tantawi's government as western quislings.

“The new cabinet is an illusion,” Eram el-Erian told Al-Jazeera when the new cabinet was appointed. “It pretends it includes real opposition but in reality this new government puts Egypt under the tutelage of the West.”