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May 7, 2014 2:01 pm

Egypt’s El-Sisi Says Would Respect Israel Treaty as President, Consider State Visit

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Campaign photo of Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the Egyptian Defense Minister who has resigned to run for president. Photo: El-Sisi Campaign.

Campaign photo of Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the former Egyptian Defense Minister who has resigned to run for president. Photo: El-Sisi Campaign.

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the former Egyptian Defense Minister who has resigned to run for president, said, if elected, he would respect his country’s peace treaty with Israel, and would even consider a state visit if there were progress on the stalled peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

In the second-half of his first televised interview, broadcast on Tuesday night, El-Sisi also “urged Egyptians to separate Hamas and the Palestinian cause, which he called a historic cause for Egypt,” Egypt’s Al-Ahram daily reported on Wednesday.

The interview was broadcast on commercial television stations CBC and ONTV, and the election is scheduled for May 26 and May 27.

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AFP reported more contentious words from El-Sisi on Israel, quoting him as saying in the interview:  “They have to help us with something of value for the Palestinians. Let us see a Palestinian nation with Jerusalem as the capital. That would make us all happy.”

“There is an opportunity to give the Palestinians hope, and that hope will open a lot of doors in the region,” he said, according to AFP.

On other foreign affairs questions, El-Sisi refused to comment on relations between Moscow and Cairo, but said that the country’s military relationship with Russia didn’t end in the 1970s “for the simple reason that many of Egypt’s weapons are Russian-made,” Al-Ahram reported.

On the U.S., El-Sisi said there were no objections from Washington over his candidacy for president and that he understood the U.S. decision to cut financial aid to Egypt after Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July.

“Their law requires it, if the army intervenes to remove a democratically elected president,” he said, adding that he “asked the U.S. to look at Egypt through Egyptian eyes, as Egypt looks at the U.S. through American eyes.”

Asked about whether he didn’t answer Ann Paterson – then-U.S. ambassador to Egypt – during the uprising which saw Morsi ousted, El-Sisi said that she had asked for something he wouldn’t grant – extending the grace period the army had given Morsi for a few days.

Al-Ahram said: “Of all foreign countries, El-Sisi gave Saudi Arabia most of the praise – describing its King Abdullah as a great and wise Arab and expressing immense gratitude for the Gulf kingdom’s assistance to Egypt after the 30 June uprising. He said Saudi would be the first country he visits as president if he wins the vote. His main antagonism was directed at Qatar – the Muslim Brotherhood’s main backer – whom he urged not to lose the affinity of Egyptians more than it already has.”

On the Muslim Brotherhood, which he vowed to finish off in the first part of the interview broadcast on Monday night, El-Sisi said before the regime’s ouster, the Army had prepared a statement supporting a referendum that would have seen Morsi obliging the protesters’ request for him to step down, but El-Sisi had to intervene when the Islamist president refused the offer.

El-Sisi said the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau ruled while Morsi was in office, but he would not create such a body, nor join a party nor form one if he were elected.

He also spoke about economic reform, including a LE160 billion ($22 billion) plan to redivide Egypt into 33 governorates instead of 27, focusing development on 26 cities and tourist hubs, 22 mining cities and eight airports. El-Sisi said financing of the plan would come from three sources: contributions from Egyptians abroad (even as little as $10 a year, he said), attracting domestic and foreign investors as well as foreign aid.

He also addressed the country’s energy needs and proposed new laws to require more efficient lighting that he said could save 4,000 megawatts of power from residential use, which currently consumes 6,000 MW. In total, Egypt produces 30,000 MW of power, about as much as New England.

El-Sisi’s only rival in the presidential race is Nasserist Sabahi, who finished third in Egypt’s 2012 presidential elections.

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