CAIRO (Aug. 18)
Declaring that he cannot predict whether or not the negotiations on Palestinian autonomy will be renewed, Butros Ghali, the Egyptian Minister of State for foreign Affairs, sold this reporter that the question of Israel’s credibility led to the suspension of the talks. He claimed that Israel every week takes illegal actions and creates obstacles to the continuation of the autonomy talks.
In an exclusive interview for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Jewish Daily Forward in his office at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry here, the 57-year-old minister said that the present crisis is a result not only of the Knesset law proclaiming united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but of many Israeli unilateral actions, the last of which was the Jerusalem law. At the same time, he asserted that the atmosphere surrounding the autonomy negotiations in the past 14 months was a negative one on the part of Israel.
Ghali, a former professor of international relations of the University of Cairo, said that by agreeing to withdraw from Sinai, Israel has established a precedent for withdrawal from all occupied territories including East Jerusalem. In this connection he predicted that the Egyptian representative at the United Nations will support a resolution condemning Israel for its action on Jerusalem at the meeting of the Security Council in New York City.
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The minister also said that this position of the Egyptian government has nothing to do with its relations with the State of Israel. “We can maintain relations with Israel and condemn it at the same time,” he said. Emphasizing that the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel remains in effect, he said that “we intend to respect the Camp David agreement and to continue the normalization process with Israel.”
As in the past, Ghali laid the blame on Israel for having created obstacles in the autonomy negotiations. Certain Arab countries would have participated in the peace talks if they saw progress on self-rule for the inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, he claimed, referring specifically to Jordan and Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, which he did not identify.
The Arab countries were in a situation of wait-and-see 14 months ago but there were no results in the autonomy talks, Ghali said. The situation today is worse than 14 months ago, he added.
Asked why only a very small number of Egyptians are visiting Israel during the normalization process, the minister enumerated three reasons: first, he said, Egyptian tourists are not interested in Israel, indicating that Americans visit the Jewish State because they are Zionists in the U.S.; second, because it costs a lot of money to go to Israel, and third, because of the political atmosphere surrounding the two countries.
Ghali expressed his satisfaction that the United States is a full partner with Egypt in the peace process “and because of this cooperation we can obtain a better solution” to peace in the Middle East.