Egypt Suspends All Contacts With Israel Except ''Diplomatic''
Egypt announced Wednesday it was suspending contacts with Israel except diplomatic contacts that could help the Palestinians, Minister of Information Safwat al-Sherif said.
Egypt's Middle East News Agency quoted al-Sherif as saying Egypt would limit its contacts with Israel to those that "serve the Palestinian question."
"Government-to-government contacts are stopped. Diplomatic channels remain open," a senior Egyptian official said.
"The cabinet issued a decree that all contacts between the two governments would stop, short of diplomatic channels which will serve the Palestinian question and the issue of peace in the region," he said.
According to AP, another official stressed that the move did not affect diplomatic representation in the two states.
Egypt has been under pressure to cut its diplomatic ties altogether and freeze its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Local protestors have called for a break in diplomatic ties and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, but Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, quoted by Sherif, implicitly excluded acting on these calls.
"Egypt places the greater interests of its people above any other consideration and takes its stands based on these interests, removed from emotions," Mubarak was quoted as saying.
Egypt "fully supports international steps" aimed at stopping Israel from using military force, he said.
The Egyptian head of state urged Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to rethink his policies and "stop these barbarous and savage acts against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian people."
An official at the Israeli Embassy in Egypt, Nadav Cohen, said the embassy would have no comment until it had been officially informed of the step. He said if Egypt decided to suspend contacts with Israel, "They have to inform us, we are not going to follow them to ask them. There are rules about how to inform us officially."
Egypt recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv, leaving only a charge d'affaires, more than a year ago to protest the violence that erupted in September 2000. Demonstrators demanding Egypt to expel the Israeli ambassador have clashed with police in Cairo in recent days.
In response to Cairo's move, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said: "At such a sensitive and problematic time, it would be better to strengthen ties, not reduce them."
In Washington, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, "We anticipate that the commitment to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, which remains in effect, will endure. And that's important." (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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