CAIRO: Iran has asked Egypt to send humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip on its behalf during a rare meeting between top Iranian diplomat Ali Asghar Mohammadi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told Daily News Egypt that the Iranians had also asked for cooperation between the countries’ Red Crescent aid services in relieving the humanitarian hardships in Gaza resulting from Israel’s blockade.
News reports published said that Iran had offered to assist Egypt in resolving the border crisis, but Zaki dismissed them as “absolute nonsense.
The meeting between the Iranian and Egyptian officials was a rare instance of diplomatic exchange between the countries since relations were severed in 1979 after Egypt provided asylum for deposed Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and then signed a peace agreement with Israel.
In Tehran yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters that, “We are on the verge of resuming official political ties with Egypt.
Zaki, however, said that the issue was only “under discussion and that “nothing had been agreed upon.
“We hope that we will be able to push relations forward, he added, “but we are not talking about any particular time frame.
These developments came after Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week telephoned Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to discuss the Gaza border crisis and regional issues, in ongoing efforts to restore full diplomatic ties between Iran and Egypt.
Ahmadinejad had said as early as last June that Tehran was ready to make amends with Cairo.
Nabil Abdel Fattah, a researcher at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Daily News Egypt said that while humanitarian cooperation was desirable in Gaza, Iran was exploiting political instability in the region in order to strengthen its presence as a regional player.
“They have become involved everywhere – Lebanon, Iraq, the Gaza strip, he said. “Egypt should cooperate with Iran, but not if they are using Gaza and Hamas as a card in the regional game. That is not in our security interests.
Journalist and expert on Political Islam Khalil Al-Anani agreed that Iran is exploiting the border crisis for political gain, but pointed out that if Egypt wanted to retain a prominent role in the Middle East it would have to begin dealing with Iran.
“I don’t see how Iran can help Egypt with the border problems, he told Daily News Egypt. “But Iran is a very vital player, and if we want to keep our position in the region we will have to engage with it.
Al-Anani said that relations with the Islamic Republic had been non-existent largely due to Egypt’s relationship with America, adding that Egypt could act as a possible mediator between the two countries should Egypt and Iran restore relations.
Abdel Fattah agreed that restoring relations with Iran was in Egypt’s interest.
“We should have good relations with all regional powers whether it be Turkey, Saudi or Iran, he said.
Aboul Gheit has said that a resumption of ties could only take place if Iran takes down a mural of Khaled El-Islambouli, who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and renames a street that was named after him.