Saturday, June 9, 2012
Friday, June 1, 2012
Two American tourists who were kidnapped early Thursday in Egypt's Sinai region have been released unharmed, a U.S. State Department spokesman said, citing Egyptian officials.
Fawzi said a deal had been reached with the kidnappers.
But Kutz told CNN that, though they were being treated "extremely well," the two were still in the custody of their captors. A few hours later, Toner confirmed their release.
Opinion: Promise of Arab Spring eluding Egypt?
The gunmen who kidnapped the two tourists Thursday morning had demanded the release of a man arrested a day earlier for drug possession, authorities said.
It was not clear if the man was released as part of a deal to secure the Americans' freedom.
The tourists, both 31, were in a car Thursday morning headed to a hotel from the town of Dahab when they were stopped, the state-run Ahram newspaper said.
The gunmen forced the tourists from the car and took them away, demanding the release of a man named Eid Suleiman Etaiwy, the newspaper said.
Etaiwy had been arrested Wednesday in possession of "a large amount of drugs," the report said.
Marwan Mustapha, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said government and intelligence officials negotiated with the kidnappers over the tourists' release.
Kidnappings and armed robberies have increased during the year since Egypt's long-ruling dictator, Hosni Mubarak, was overthrown.
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The Sinai is one of the most underdeveloped areas in the country, and Bedouins have long complained that government services are nonexistent.
In February, two other American tourists were briefly kidnapped in the region. The kidnappers demanded that some detainees be released, but it is unclear whether the demands were met.
In January, 24 Chinese workers and a translator were kidnapped while on their way to a military-owned cement factory. A group of armed Bedouins had blocked the road they were traveling and wanted the Egyptian government to release prisoners.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Establishment of relations with Tehran and interaction with Iran are highly important (to Cairo)," Tala't Ramih told FNA, adding that the two Muslim countries should develop their economic, cultural, trade and training relations.
"I see no obstacle to the establishment of such relations between Iran and Egypt," he underlined.
The editor of the Egyptian 'Strategies' magazine also welcomed the recent developments in the two countries' relations, and said, "The things which happened between the two countries in the past were not natural and normal as Egypt confronted Tehran without paying attention to its own and Iran's interests."
After the collapse of Hosni Mubarak's regime, the Iranian and Egyptian officials voiced their interest in the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi officially invited his Egyptian counterpart Nabil al-Arabi to pay a visit to Tehran.
The invitation letter was submitted to the Egyptian foreign minister during a meeting between Director of Iran's Interest Section in Cairo Mojtaba Amani and al-Arabi.
Egyptian daily, al-Ahram quoted the spokesman of the Egyptian foreign ministry as saying that Salehi in his message had lauded the recently uttered positive remarks by al-Arabi about the promotion of bilateral ties with Iran.
Al-Arabi in his first press conference last month announced Cairo's preparedness to open "a new page with Iran.
The state security prosecution today began an inquiry into Iranian diplomat Qasim al-Hosseini, who works at the Iranian interests section in Cairo," the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.
Hosseini, who was arrested a few days ago, had been accused of "spying for a foreign state (Iran) in order to harm Egypt's interests," said MENA.
An initial probe found the diplomat gathered "information about Egypt on the latest developments the country has experienced and the conditions through which it is passing, then sent them to Iran's intelligence services," it added.
The Iranian interests section in Cairo denied the report.
"He is in the embassy as I speak. It did not happen that way, he was not arrested," an official in the section told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Earlier in Tehran, the Arabic-language television channel Al-Alam quoted an informed source as saying that Hosseini "is currently in his office and working normally" in Cairo.
"We are following the case," he added without elaborating.
Iran and Egypt have no diplomatic ties and relations between the two countries were tense under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Tehran severed diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1980 in protest at Cairo's peace treaty with Israel signed a year earlier, and the two states maintain only interests sections in each other's capitals.
But the two Muslim countries have signalled they plan to mend ties in the wake of the fall of Mubarak's regime on February 11 this year.
Friday, May 20, 2011
The Israeli embassy in Cairo – the first of its kind and one of only two in the Arab world – sits on the top floor of an unremarkable 15-storey office building near the Nile, a short drive south and across the river from the revolutionary epicentre of Tahrir Square. From the roof, a pole protrudes and makes a right angle high above Ibn Malek Street. Fluttering from the pole is one of the most hated symbols in the Middle East: the Star of David.
Thousands of Egyptians protested below that flag on Sunday afternoon, the 63rd anniversary of Israel's independence. They wanted their post-revolution government to hear demands that Egypt break ties with Israel. Instead, they ran into a harsh post-revolution reality: The unchecked power of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
The demonstration had proceeded peacefully for hours before a surge toward the building's entrance at around 11pm caused the street to dissolve into a battlefield of burning tires, hurled rocks and swirling tear gas. Central Security and military troops violently dispersed the rally with rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition. One man was shot in the head and another in the abdomen.
Two hours into the fight, with the crowd thinned to hundreds of young, rock-throwing men, independent journalist Mohamed Effat arrived half a block away, in a square marked by a famous, 83-year-old statue of a sphinx and a peasant woman removing her veil – "Egypt's Renaissance."
The crowd around Effat shouted chants for a few minutes before a barrage of tear gas landed among them. The group ran several blocks south to escape the gas and paused on a corner near a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Four Seasons hotel. Moments later, soldiers charged from the other direction, firing their guns in the air. Effat and the others scattered into side streets leading toward the Nile, but the army had sealed the entire Corniche.
Soldiers quickly rounded up the group and herded them to the embassy, where hundreds of police and army troops had assembled underneath a bridge. Effat and the protesters were made to lie face down on the pavement with their hands behind their heads. Officers cursed and berated them.
The response by the Egyptian military following the explosion of protests throughout the country – to support and protect, rather than disperse the revolutionaries – suggested a tacit acknowledgment of this fact and provided an opportunity to establish a clean slate. With Mubarak already at the advanced age of 82 and with the possible succession by his highly unpopular son Gamal – along with the continuation of failed domestic and foreign policies – the military elite recognized that it was time to seize the opportunity to create a much-needed change.
As the current Egyptian government stewards the nation in its transition to a more open and free democratic system, it has already begun to make the kind of domestic and foreign policy reforms that are needed to reassert Egyptian leadership. To be sure, it is understandable that the US and Israel are troubled by data like the recent Pew Research poll indicating that 54 percent of Egyptians would like to see the Israel-Egypt peace treaty annulled, and that 79% have a negative view of the US. Yet turning these figures around will require working with a new Egyptian government that is responsive to its people, not shunning or fearing it. Furthermore, privately and publicly, officials in the new government, as well as candidates for the presidency, have indicated their desire to demonstrate Egypt’s leadership and independence, yet still abide by its treaty with Israel and maintain strategic ties with the US.
In fact, in a recent interview with The Washington Post, new Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby stated repeatedly that Cairo “made it very clear from the first day [of the new government] that we want to open a new page with all the countries in the world.” Regarding Egypt-US ties, the foreign minister said he expected them to be “stronger than ever,” and in reference to Egypt-Israel ties he noted that his country “is going to comply with every agreement and abide by every treaty it has entered into.” Even so, Western fears of the new Egyptian foreign policy direction are centered on three key concerns: the new government’s outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Iran.
Alarm bells rang in February when the Egyptian military allowed two Iranian warships to pass through the Suez canal despite objections from Israel and the US.
The contrast with the old regime is striking since Mubarak always made great play of his hostility to Iran and was quick to blame its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, for acting against Egyptian security – even if the evidence seemed dubious.
The view in Cairo is that foreign policy is once again becoming the preserve of the foreign ministry after years in which it was run by the president and his intelligence service under General Omar Suleiman.
Suleiman's successor, Murad Mowafi, who helped seal the Hamas-Fatah deal, also paid an early visit to Damascus, prompting expressions of alarm from the US.
Overall, the hope is that Egypt will regain the regional clout it lost in recent years due to its subservience to the US – though the relationship with Washington remains vitally important, especially for the military.
"Egypt was very weak and very corrupt," said Osama Ghazali Harb, leader of the Democratic Front party. "But when you have a democratic Egypt and a confident government it can return to its proper place."
Anxiety about Egypt's new diplomatic style is overstated, Fahmy suggested: "Everything we are saying vocally now we have said privately