Peace initiative Cairo
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby ‏(center‏) at a meeting in Cairo with former Shin Beta deleg chief Jacob Perry ‏(front left‏). Photo by Reuters
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CAIRO - Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby, who has been named as the Arab League's next secretary general, reiterated a commitment to his country's peace treaty with Israel yesterday but said Egypt reserved the right to maintain an independent foreign policy.

Speaking to representatives of the Israeli Peace Initiative, a group promoting its own peace plan that has the backing of several prominent former Israeli security officials, academics and business leaders, Elaraby did not rule out the possibility that Egypt would reestablish diplomatic relations with Iran.

He expressed disappointment over the reservations Israel has voiced regarding such a renewal of relations, saying that since Germany and Turkey have diplomatic ties with Iran, he cannot see why Egypt should not. No final decision has been made on the matter, he added, but the prospect of such ties should not be a cause for concern.

The foreign minister, who is known for his hard line regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, said resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was the key to a regional peace agreement.

He also said Egypt was not to blame for what has been termed a cold peace between his country and Israel. It is legitimate for Egypt to express concern over the fact that years have passed, but a Palestinian state has still not been established, he said. But he insisted that the Egyptian government installed after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak is committed to the peace treaty with Israel.

Elaraby urged Israel to take advantage of the changes sweeping the Middle East to conclude peace agreements, asserting that Israel's government is not doing enough to advance the peace process. Only greater pressure from the Israeli public will lead the Israeli government back to the negotiating table, he added.

Unlike the plan recently proposed by the Israeli Peace Initiative, the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 has the endorsement of all of the Arab states and the Arab League, the foreign minister noted. However, he added, the two plans could complement one another.

The Israeli delegation was headed by former Shin Bet security service head Jacob Perry. He was joined by former Mossad chief Danny Yatom, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman and former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, among others.