Monday, 21 July 2014


Very interesting article here from the generally pro-state and widely respected Egyptian newspaper Ahram Online. This article makes quite clear the machinations between nato (the 'west' Turkey and Qatar) and Egypt and the Resistance Axis (Syria, Lebanese Hizbullah and Iran) in relation to Gaza and Palestine. Basically the situation is that nato is working on taking Palestine under its wings from the Resistance Axis and Egypt. Such a development would be another blow to the Palestinian struggle and the region and the entire Global South.

The most interesting passage is this one: "“Obviously we are facing a serious challenge, but the initiative is not dead yet,” said the same Egyptian diplomat. He acknowledged that to give the initiative the kiss of life, Cairo would have to stop counting on its good relations with Abbas and with Israel and venture into improving its relations “somewhat” with Hamas and some of its regional allies — Iran the more likely candidate, rather than Turkey or Qatar."

What this means is that Egypt is most likely open to developing a strategic approach with Iran in countering the attempts at nato to take over Palestine.

- Sukant Chandan, Sons of Malcolm

Egypt vies to protect traditional Gaza truce broker role

With challengers to its traditional regional role having emerged, principally in Turkey and Qatar, Egypt's proposed initiative to end Israel's latest assault has taken on added significance

Ahram Online

What started as an understated diplomatic tug of war between Egypt and Turkey is turning into an open confrontation over developments in Gaza.

On Friday afternoon, during a press conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Egypt’s top diplomat Sameh Shoukry openly criticised the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his remarks on Egypt.

Erdogan had been directly critical of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his political choices on Gaza. The Turkish premier, who was a vocal opponent of the ouster of former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi over a year ago, on Friday called Egypt’s president "another dictator" who is in league with Israel against the oppressed Palestinians.

Shoukry said that the remarks were "totally unacceptable and went way out of the boundaries of diplomatic decency."

The statement of the top Egyptian diplomat came as both Cairo and Ankara were by now openly competing to provide a political deal acceptable to both Israel and Hamas with the objective of ending Israel's latest war on the beseiged and impoverished Gaza Strip.

It also came at the time when Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas was leaving Cairo to Ankara after a two-day visit where he met with Egyptian, Israeli and Hamas officials in an attempt to secure a deal acceptable to all parties.

The talks in Cairo, designed to support an Egyptian ceasefire initiative tabled Tuesday, failed to deliver as Hamas leaders — later joined by all Palestinian factions, except Abbas's Fatah — declined the Egyptian offer as inappropriate in failing to acknowledge the demand of Palestinians in Gaza to see an end to the siege that has been imposed on the densely populated Strip since Hamas took power in 2007.

“Erdogan, with the help of the Qataris, is blocking Hamas from agreeing to the initiative because they don’t want Egypt to be the one that ends the war on Gaza. They want to have this political victory for themselves on the bodies of innocent Palestinians in Gaza,” said an Egyptian diplomat who spoke off the record.

The Egyptian initiative, which calls for end of "hostilities" on and from Gaza pending security arrangements, was shrugged by Hamas leaders on the basis that it was neither coordinated with the Palestinian faction prior to its being issued, unlike with Israel, nor would it provide Palestinians in Gaza the end of siege they are demanding.

Hamas openly qualified the Egyptian initiative as a slightly polished version of an Israeli blueprint that was designed to cut the political losses of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the war on Gaza.

Concerned Egyptian officials say that contrary to the Hamas criticism, the initiative was discussed with PA chief Abbas. This, they admit, was essentially due to tense relations between the new authorities in Egypt and Hamas over Egyptian accusations that the Islamic Resistance Movement is attempting to avenge the ouster of Morsi last year.

Egyptian officials add that Hamas leaders “went too far” when they declined Egyptian mediation ahead of the Israeli war on Gaza. “They were warned that this was going to happen and they shrugged our advice,” said a source close to mediation talks that failed to stop the assault over a week ago.

In Cairo, following Hamas's rejection of the initiative, which had been offered nominal support from an extraordinary Arab League meeting Monday, Egyptian authorities acknowledged the need to put aside their political hostility towards Hamas if they wished to deliver a political deal that would save traditional Egyptian influence on the Palestinian-Israeli front — especially when it comes to Gaza that falls squarely on the eastern borders of Egypt and historically had been administered by Egypt following the 1948 war and until its occupation in 1967.

Hamas leader Moussa Abou Marzouk, given refuge in Egypt since he had to leave his otherwise permanent base in Syria amid the political turmoil there, was summoned for talks with top intelligence officials, which were partially joined by Abbas. He then left Cairo with a message to Hamas leaders in Gaza and would later meet with Hamas leaders outside Gaza.

Meanwhile, Egypt has asked top Hamas political figure Khaled Meshal to come to Cairo for talks that could pave the way for the promotion of the Egyptian initiative.

Egypt has been — and still is — reluctant to accommodate Hamas's demand for a permanent opening of Rafah Crossing, the only non-Israeli controlled outlet for Gaza. However, according to official sources, it is willing to agree to more frequent, if not basically regular, operation of the crossing point, as well as suspending its anti-Hamas media warfare and releasing some Hamas prisoners.

In return, it wants Hamas to agree promptly on its initiative, and away from co-sponsors — especially political adversaries Turkey and Qatar, that have been calling the ouster of Morsi a "military coup."

Egypt already has Israel on board. And, according to the Egyptian diplomat who spoke to Ahram Online, “it is unlikely that Israel would grant any other mediator a higher level of concessions for Hamas than it does for Egypt.”

Israel has been fully opposed to ending its siege on Gaza or releasing the full list of prisoners Hamas is putting on the table. It has at best agreed to some measures, coordinated with International Quartet envoy Tony Blair, to alleviate the hardships faced by Gazans, including an Arab reconstruction scheme, in return for a long-term ceasefire (most sources speak of five years) and the elimination of Hamas's rockets capacity.

The objective of getting Hamas to succumb to a truce sooner rather than later is something that most international players — particularly the US — are willing to support.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who twice cancelled tentatively scheduled visits to the Middle East, including Egypt, has been discussing developments with regional interlocutors.

Kerry had openly called on Hamas to agree to the Egyptian initiative and during the past few days expressed more than once Washington’s support for the Egyptian initiative.

However, Western diplomatic sources say, it is becoming increasingly the impression in Washington, which is unlikely to send its top diplomat to the region too far in advance of a political deal, that Egypt is unlikely to achieve a positive result by itself.

“Egypt does not have the influence it used to have over Hamas — not just under Morsi but also under [ousted president Hosni] Mubarak,” said one Western diplomatic source.

Under the rule of Mubarak, Egypt was never at ease with Hamas and openly favoured its rival, Abbas's Fatah movement, in the internal Palestinian dispute. But its regional weight meant ultimately that its word was heard by Hamas leaders. Under Morsi, the close association between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas was revealed.

Today, it is the impression of concerned Western capitals that without mixing Egyptian diplomatic/intelligence efforts with those of either (or maybe both) Turkey and Qatar, it might prove difficult for a deal to be reached in the region.

During the last few days, in talks between Kerry and Shoukry, the US secretary of state — according to one informed Western diplomat — suggested to his Egyptian counterpart the possible need to extend diplomatic cooperation (ie, to pull in other partners) to conclude a deal to end the war on Gaza.

This is not something that is pleasing Cairo. Concerned Egyptian officials are not ruling out the possibility of the US opting for a non-Egyptian umbrella for a ceasefire deal. But this, they say, might add to already existing tensions — and some say the mood for revision — that Cairo and Washington share.

The regional capacity of Egypt has always been a key factor in the Egyptian-American "partnership," as established since the relaunch of relations following the Egypt-Israel peace deal. Recently, this capacity has been significantly challenged, with Egypt too busy with its internal affairs to have an impact on developments in a region marked with considerable military and political turmoil.

A senior retired Egyptian diplomat said “it would be a serious setback” if Egypt failed to be the sole mediator of a Gaza truce. “We are not there in Syria, not in Iraq, and even not in Gaza? That would be a diplomatic catastrophe,” he said.

Realistically speaking, Egyptian officials are aware that their initiative might falter. In this case, the face-saving scenario they would opt for is for the war on Gaza to be referred to the UN Security Council.

This option was already addressed in talks that Shoukry has been holding in Cairo with visiting European and Israeli delegations, with Abbas, and with other officials over the phone, including Kerry.

“Obviously we are facing a serious challenge, but the initiative is not dead yet,” said the same Egyptian diplomat. He acknowledged that to give the initiative the kiss of life, Cairo would have to stop counting on its good relations with Abbas and with Israel and venture into improving its relations “somewhat” with Hamas and some of its regional allies — Iran the more likely candidate, rather than Turkey or Qatar.

Three days ago, Shoukry discussed developments in Gaza with his Iranian counterpart, Jawad Zarif, according to a press statement issued by the press office at the Egyptian foreign ministry.

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