Egypt to ‘Open New Page’ with Iran

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Against the backdrop of upheaval in many Middle Eastern countries, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi said Monday Cairo is ready to "open a new page with Iran" after more than 30 years without diplomatic ties.

Ousted President Hosni Mubarak cut ties with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution close to the time when Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel and established diplomatic ties.

Thirty years later, Egypt is reestablishing ties with Iran and reevaluating its relationship with Israel.

"The Egyptian and Iranian people deserve to have mutual relations reflecting their history and civilization," al-Arabi said following a meeting with senior Iranian official Mugtabi Amani on Monday.

"Egypt is open to all countries and the aim is to achieve common interests," al-Arabi said.

Amani brought greetings from Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who called for new "bilateral cooperation" between the two countries and visits between their foreign ministers in Tehran and Cairo in the near future.

"The Egyptian people, by taking steps toward realizing their just demands, opened a new chapter in the history of the country, and again I congratulate them on this victory," the Tehran Times quoted Salehi as saying.

Meanwhile in an interview on Egyptian television over the weekend, al-Arabi said the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is subject to amendment.

"Any issue is negotiable," he said, citing the treaty's stipulation that the Sinai Peninsula be a demilitarized zone. Egypt would continue to maintain a military presence there, he said.

Al-Arabi also said Israel would no longer be able to buy natural gas at a discounted price, something Egypt and Israel had agreed to in a 15-year contract signed before Mubarak's government fell.

In a television interview on Sunday, al-Arabi said he would demand Israel pay the difference retroactively for the reduced price it had been paying for gas. 

Mubarak's ouster in mid-February appears to have set the stage for broad policy changes.

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