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Egypt FM defends Israel, says policies not terrorism

Weeks after surprise visit to Jerusalem, Sameh Shoukry tells high school students Israel’s history has led to strong sense of national security

In a rare public admission from an Arab official, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Sunday reportedly told a group of high school students in Cairo that Israel’s presence in the West Bank and its policies toward Palestinians do not constitute terrorism.

“You can look at it as a rule of force, but there is no proven link between Israel and terrorist groups,” Shoukry told students visiting the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Cairo, according to a report on the Ynet news website.

“There is no overwhelming [evidence] leading to that conclusion,” he said.

Shoukry’s remarks came in response to a student who asked the foreign minister why Israel and the United States were not considered terror organizations by the international community despite their ongoing military operations in the region.

Shoukry replied that “Israel in accordance with its own history is a society that has a very strong element of security.”

“From Israel’s perspective, since 1948, that same society has faced many challenges that have instilled the concept of national security, taking over land and control of border crossings,” he said.

In July, Shoukry made a rare visit to Jerusalem the first by an Egyptian foreign minister since 2007 to promote President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s proposal to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

According to a Channel 2 report at the time, Shoukry’s surprise visit was also aimed at arranging a first meeting between Sissi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming months.

His visit, the TV report said, was coordinated between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, whose Arab Peace Initiative is backed by Sissi and much of the Arab world as the basis of any regional peace effort. Netanyahu has rejected that initiative in its current form, but said earlier this year that it “contains positive elements that could help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also indicated his willingness to participate in a trilateral Israeli-Egyptian-Palestinian peace summit in Cairo.

Shoukry’s comments on the Jewish state Sunday came as an Israeli delegation reportedly arrived in Cairo for meetings with their Egyptian counterparts to discuss the renewed peace efforts.


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