Egypt’s foreign minister reaffirmed on Monday his country’s commitment to the peace treaty it signed with Israel in 1979.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr said relations between Egypt and Israel were governed by the U.S.-brokered peace agreement and stressed that Cairo honored all its treaty commitments as long as the other party did the same “in letter and in spirit.”
He was then asked if Israel had run afoul of the spirit or letter of the 1979 agreement, to which he replied: “No, I don’t mean Israel in particular. I mean our agreements in general.”
Amr’s statements are a reversal of comments made last week by Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, who said the peace treaty with Israel was not “sacred” and may be open to revisions in the future.
Sharaf told a Turkish television network that “the Camp David agreement depends on what benefits the region. Egypt will make changes to the treaty if necessary.”
His remarks triggered alarm bells in Israel, which saw its embassy in Cairo ransacked by rioters earlier this month. An angry mob who protested outside the embassy managed to break down the wall surrounding it and almost lynched six Israeli security guards.
Following Sharaf’s comments, Israel summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Israel to clarify the statements. Egypt later reaffirmed its commitment to the peace treaty, saying Cairo will abide by the peace agreement with Israel if the latter does the same. Amr’s comments on Monday echo that announcement.
During the interview Amr was also asked about concerns over the state of U.S.-Egyptian relations. He said he was heading to Washington for talks Tuesday and Wednesday with senior U.S. officials including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, adding, “We always have strong relations with the United States. This is not limited to one era or one regime, this is a strategic relationship that benefits both sides actually, not only one side. ... I think both parties are very much interested in not only maintaining their relationship but also strengthening it in the future.”
Amr also said he is hopeful that the roadmap to “a truly representative government” will be kept. Elections for the two houses of parliament are to be held by the end of November, a 100-member committee to draft a constitution will be established in six months, and a referendum on the constitution and presidential elections will be held in early 2012.
He noted, however, that “in such circumstances, you cannot have definite dates. You always have to be flexible and respond to whatever circumstances that may arise. But we are optimistic that this is more or less the schedule for the coming period.”
The foreign minister downplayed concerns that a potential strong showing by supporters of the extreme Muslim Brotherhood in parliamentary elections could pose challenges to the current government’s goal of shifting Egypt to a democratic state.
“A characteristic of any democratic system is that everybody should have a chance to express his views — to put his ideology to the people,” Amr said. “Whatever outcome will come through the ballot box (it) should be and must be respected.”
Asked where he sees Egypt in ten years, Amr answered: “I see a democratic, liberal, developed country ... which regained its sense of hope. I see a country that is much better than the country we had yesterday, and this, inevitably, will lead to Egypt reoccupying its rightful place as a leading power, as a beacon for progress and moderation, in our region.”