'We respect Sisi,' Israeli ambassador tells Egypt

'We respect Sisi,' Israeli ambassador tells Egypt
3 min read
25 February, 2016
Israel respects Sisi because he is "open-minded" and understands the region, Israel's ambassador to Egypt has said, as relations between the two neighbours become even friendlier.
Koren said Egyptians were 'nice, humour-loving people' [Facebook]
The Israeli ambassador to Egypt has given a rare interview to Egyptian journalists at his residence in Cairo, and said that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was "respectable".

Haim Koren told journalists that Israel respected Sisi because he was interested in stability and that the two countries must set up economic and cultural relations.

"We respect Sisi because he is an open-minded president who wants stability in the region in general and in Egypt especially," Koren said in the interview, which was posted in its entirety on Facebook.

"[Sisi] is aware that the nature of the Middle East has changed and understands what is going on in Egypt and Israel," the outgoing ambassador said.

"There are common interests between Egypt and Israel and the Arab world - be it Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or the other Gulf countries. We cannot only cooperate on security. We need to establish economic and cultural relations as well as relations relating to investing in Egyptian businesses," he said.

He added that he thought Egyptians were "nice humour-loving people".

It has been a busy week for Koren, on Wednesday he had dinner at the home of controversial lawmaker and TV host Tawfiq Okasha, who had invited the ambassador to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the Egyptian economy.

      Koren meeting with Okasha on Wednesday [TNA]
Okasha, who is an ardent critic of the 2011 uprising, is a part of a group of conspiracy theorists that believe the dam is largely funded by Israel to destroy Egypt.

The meeting was harshly criticised by pro-regime parliamentarian Mustafa Bakry, who said on Twitter that it was "disgrace" and called on the head of parliament to condemn the dinner date.

"Has Okasha forgotten about prisoners of war that were buried alive by the Zionists?" Bakry asked.

This all comes amid numerous controversies surrounding the normalisation of relations between Egypt and Israel.

Earlier this week, the Israeli military's Arabic-language spokesman posted a chummy image online showing him and an Egyptian journalist, who was visiting Israel with a press delegation.

The meeting was condemned by the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate, which said the journalists "only represented themselves" and that none of its members were on the trip.

Egypt's Football Association spokesman Azmy Megahed recently said the national team should play matches against Israel - and that Qatar posed a bigger threat to state security than Israel.

An Israeli minister revealed earlier this month that Egypt had flooded tunnels on its border with the besieged Gaza Strip at Tel Aviv's request.

Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979 to put an end to 30 years of intermittent warfare. The deal has been unpopular with many Egyptians, who have long called for it to be rescinded.