Premature to discuss Gaza's governance amidst Israeli military operation: FM Shoukry in DC

Ahram Online , Friday 8 Dec 2023

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Thursday that it was premature to consider how Gaza will be governed in future due to the uncertainty results of the Israeli military operation in Gaza.

Sameh Shoukry
A snap shot of Egypt s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry speaks during live conversation with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Thursday 7 December, 2023. Photo courtesy of CSIS


“I believe that it's a little premature for us to consider how Gaza will be governed since we are uncertain of the result of this military activity, and to what degree Israel will achieve the strategic objectives it has set out,” he said in a live conversation online with the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Nonetheless, as far as Egypt is officially concerned the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the PLO are the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said. He added that the PA should be given the authority to govern both the West Bank and Gaza after being undermined by Israeli policies for years.

Shoukry stated that Egypt condemns what occurred on 7 October in Israel, and the targeting of any civilians.

The minister added that Egypt has been dealing with the consequences of this crisis since day one, and remains in constant communication and coordination with Israel, the United States, and other partners to put an end to the conflict.

"We initiated calls for a ceasefire and humanitarian truces because Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas globally,” he added.

Additionally, the Palestinian civilians there have endured a prolonged blockade, and their conditions have turned into a catastrophe, Shoukry highlighted.

Concerning Hamas and whether the Egyptian government considers it a “terrorist organization” as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood - which is officially designated as a terrorist organization in Egypt - Shoukry said that “it's counterproductive to try to make these distinctions.”

“We have had an ongoing dialogue with Hamas over these last eight or nine years because of Israel's desire for an interlocutor during these conflicts. We have already dealt with five previous conflicts, conveying messages to bring about ceasefires between them; that has been the basis of our relationship with Hamas,” Shoukry explained.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister also stated that the continuation of the occupation provides the basis for legitimate resistance to it, even beyond the right to resistance enshrined in the UN Charter for occupied peoples.

“I think at this stage it is more important to concentrate on actually what is happening, and the impact and the dangers associated with the situation,” he added.

Shoukry reaffirmed that Egypt strives for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the two-state solution.

Regarding the demilitarization of that Palestinian state, which was brought up recently by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, FM Shoukry clarified that it is not a new proposal from Egypt. Rather, it is a point long accepted by the Palestinian Authority as part of its negotiations with Israel.

He explained that the envisioned Palestinian state would lack an army, but would feature a paramilitary-style police force. He further mentioned the potential for the presence of an international force, whether from NATO or a combined Arab-international force.

During the interview, Shoukry also asserted the Arab countries would not contribute to a security force in Gaza while it remains an occupied territory.  

He also expressed Egypt’s frustration with the Israeli aid vetting process, which significantly restricts the flow of aid into the strip. Shoukry added that Israel's six crossings into Gaza should also be open for aid shipments.

Healing Gaza

Shoukry also discussed the proposal made by the Arab League and Islamic countries to the UN Security Council, focusing solely on increasing humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza.

The resolution emphasizes the importance of the United Nations conducting the vetting process for assistance to build confidence among Israelis. This approach aims to ensure impartiality and trust, facilitating greater access to humanitarian aid and goods for the people of Gaza, he added.

Asked about the reconstruction of Gaza, where 60 percent of all buildings have been destroyed, and which country is responsible for it, Shoukry said that from a legal perspective, Israel as the occupying power is responsible - whether they do it or not.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister hoped that the international community would hold a conference on reconstruction, similar to the conference Egypt hosted in 2014 following the third Israel-Hamas conflict.

When asked about whether Egypt would leverage its position in the ongoing Gaza crisis during discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and if it might request debt relief from the fund, Shoukry emphasized that Egypt's economic focus has encompassed both the macro and micro aspects of its economy in negotiations with the IMF and international partners.

He emphasized that Egypt's role and contributions to regional security and peace are recognized for fostering stability and fulfilling its responsibilities.

This, however, should not be associated with the reduction of Egypt's existing debts," he asserted.

Shoukry arrived in the US earlier this week for a series of meetings with heads and members of foreign policy committees in the US Congress, to advance and strengthen the strategic relations between Egypt and the US as well as discuss developments in Gaza.

He will also join the Arab-Muslim ministerial delegation, set to visit DC on Thursday, where they will meet with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, several Congress members, and the US media.

The delegation plans to meet with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, having previously met with Chinese officials in Beijing.

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