Egypt has drifted farther from Israel following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, with protesters calling to end the peace treaty with Israel, a position supported by more than half of the Egyptian population. Now political candidates are catering to the public mood by drawing closer to Iran and Hamas.
Egypt’s new Foreign Ministry heads plan to normalize ties with Iran, according to spokeswoman Mena Bakhoum. “All the world has diplomatic ties with Iran with the exception of the United States and Israel,” she said this week. “We look at Iran as a neighbor in the region that we should have normal relations with.”
Iran is currently perceived as neither enemy nor friend, she added.
During anti-regime protests in Egypt, Iran encouraged protesters and expressed hope that a “new Egypt” would become part of an Islamic revolution in the Middle East. Iran has since called for stronger ties with Egypt.
Gulf regimes have expressed concern over Cairo’s warmer ties with Iran.
Bakhoum also announced that Egypt intends to completely open its border with Gaza. She termed the one-time blockade on Hamas “shameful.”
Egypt previously put in place a blockade of Hamas more stringent that Israel’s, as Israel allowed humanitarian goods to enter through its borders. However, over the past two years Egypt has increasingly allowed people and goods to pass through its border with southern Gaza. Israel has relaxed its policy as well, but continues to forbid the import to Gaza of weapons or dual-purpose materials.
Most of the weapons in Gaza are believed to have entered the region via smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border. Israel has relied on Egypt to fight smuggling and the weapons trade in the Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt showed its new approach to Hamas during talks for Palestinian Authority unity held with Hamas leaders and leaders of the rival Fatah faction. Hamas representatives were invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and met with senior leaders, including interim head of state Mohamed Tantawi.
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