Al-Ahram Weekly Online
4 -10 April 2002
Issue No.580
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Cairo acts

"EGYPT will halt all communications with Israel, except diplomatic channels that serve the Palestinian cause," was the announcement made yesterday after a cabinet meeting headed by President Hosni Mubarak, reports Nevine Khalil. Minister of Information Safwat El-Sherif did not elaborate on the statement he read out to reporters after the meeting.

In reaction, Washington called on Egypt and Israel to maintain the "closest possible contacts."

The level of diplomatic "channels" that Cairo will leave open with Tel Aviv was left unclear, raising questions about the possibility of downgrading Israel's diplomatic mission in Cairo. The decision does imply, however, that Egypt's economic, agricultural and tourism ties with Israel will be frozen -- a step that meets part of the demands voiced by demonstrators across the country, who want Israel's embassy in Cairo shut down.

Mubarak said he "fully appreciates all forms of popular expression and sympathy with the Palestinians and their condemnation of Israel's practices."

The cabinet meeting discussed the "vicious" Israeli invasion of the Palestinian territories and the siege of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, in addition to reviewing Egypt's diplomatic contacts over the past week. Cabinet ministers, Parliament Speaker Fathi Sorour, Shura Council Chairman Mustafa Kamal Helmi and the chairmen of the foreign relations committees in both houses were present at the meeting.

The president had been working the phones since the beginning of the week, speaking to his counterparts across the globe on the need to rein in Sharon's actions. He spoke to France's Jacques Chirac yesterday morning and, on Tuesday evening, asked US President George W Bush "to urgently work on halting the vicious Israeli military campaign of invading the Palestinian-controlled territories." In his message, Mubarak also warned against the consequences if Israel continues its "atrocious" aggressions and defiance of UN Resolution 1402, "pushing the region towards a dangerous abyss."

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