CAIRO: New Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has softened his stance on Egypt after assuming his new post, but Egypt seemed unmoved by his comments.
Lieberman assumed the post of foreign minister from Tzipi Livni in a ceremony on Wednesday. In his speech he indicated a willingness to travel to Egypt.
“I will definitely be happy to visit Egypt, and I would be happy for Egyptian leaders to visit us here, and for the Egyptian Foreign Minister to visit the Israeli Foreign Ministry. I certainly respect them, and I want them to respect us, on the basis of reciprocity, he said.
“Egypt existed in the time of our Patriarchs, and will apparently be in our time as well, Lieberman added. “Egypt is certainly an important factor and an important country in the Arab world, and a factor that stabilizes the regional situation, and perhaps beyond it.
A statement released by the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry indicated Lieberman’s refusal to recognize the Annapolis peace conference was the first setback for peace efforts by the new Israeli government.
As for Lieberman himself, the spokesman said regarding his comments on Egypt’s role that “it goes without saying and Egypt does not need recognition from anyone regarding its role, especially from those who attacked it in the past.
Additionally, an unnamed Egyptian official told the Jerusalem Post that there would be no dealings with Lieberman unless an apology was forthcoming.
The official allegedly told the newspaper, “We are not [dealing with him].
He has insulted us before. Now he has to apologize. [If he does not] That s it. We will not deal with him. Take what I m telling you as reliable.
The Egyptian official went on to say that Lieberman’s recent comments did not constitute an apology but that there would be no boycott of other diplomats in the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
“We have no problem with the Foreign Ministry. Those are professional diplomats. We deal with them and they deal with us … [Boycotting Lieberman] is a political statement, he said.
The right-wing Lieberman is known for his blunt views, and has upset Cairo in the past, first with a statement 10 years ago that if Egypt was to attack Israel, then Israel would be bomb the Aswan dam, and again last October in the Knesset when he said President Hosni Mubarak “could go to hell for not visiting Israel.
“What is important is to maintain world and regional stability, Lieberman had said.
Former Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Bassiouny had told Daily News Egypt after the Israeli elections that Egypt would be prepared to deal with any Israeli government, but a desire for peace was imperative.
The Israeli people pick their representative for office, not us. We deal with any government they chose. What s important to me is not the person that will lead, but rather their willingness to take steps towards peace, he said.