Egypt airs interview with Israeli embassy official
A spokesman at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, Israel Tikochinsky, appeared on Egyptian television this week for the first time.
He was interviewed in Arabic by Umayma Tamim, the wife of Osama al-Baz, a senior aide to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Also present was Mahpuz al-Ansari, director of the official Egyptian news agency MENA.
Tikochinsky, like his predecessors at the Cairo embassy, has suffered from a freeze-out by the Egyptian media. Even those reporters who cover Israeli affairs refused to speak to him by phone.
In this frosty climate, the invitation to appear on Egypt's premier channel is an unprecedented gesture toward Israel, and one that comes weeks before Tikochinsky ends his stint as embassy spokesman and returns to Israel.
Tamim traveled to Jerusalem several weeks ago to interview the deputy director of the Arabic media department at the Foreign Ministry, Lior Ben Dor.
While Ben Dor was cut off more than once by his hosts, Tikochinsky was on this occasion invited to speak at length.
He told Tamim that Israel is ready to facilitate the Palestinian elections, and that the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank is Israel's first step in the peace process.
"Prime Minister Sharon is serious in his intentions ... There is a golden opportunity for the Palestinians to prove that they are capable of acting responsibly," said Tikochinsky.
The interview comes the same week that Egypt has made a number of gestures apparently aimed reviving its ties with Israel.