Hamas leader’s comments on Egyptian FM spark controversy

Cairo, Gaza–A clash has erupted between the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas after Mahmoud el-Zahar, a Hamas leader, criticized Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit in an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm.

El-Zahar spoke to Al-Masry on Friday, saying that Egypt’s stance toward the Palestinian question is not determined by the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry, but by “other authorities”, an implicit reference to the Egyptian security apparatus. He also accused Abul Gheit of “issuing provocative statements.”

Hossam Zaki, official spokesperson of the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry, responded to the criticism, saying that “el-Zahar’s statements suggest he does not understand Egypt’s foreign policy mechanisms; he imagines we can talk about who controls the [Palestinian] issue in the style of political organizations, not as states.” Zaki added adding that Abul Gheit “is the one in charge of foreign policy and needs no one to tell him how to manage this or that issue.”

“If el-Zahar thinks he can placate any of Egypt’s authorities with this kind of talk in order to get the border opened, he will not succeed,” Zaki was quoted as saying in the London-based newspaper ASharq Alawsat. “El-Zahar has no authority within Hamas. He is just like anyone else in Gaza; he has no influence on the leadership that rules everything.”

For his part, Fawzi Barhoum, spokesperson for Hamas, commented on Zaki’s comments saying, “Such statements prove Egypt’s stance is not neutral, but escalating against Hamas. They also indicate a regression of Egypt’s role in the Palestinian cause.” Barhoum considered Zaki’s statements harmful towards Egypt, not Hamas.

Meanwhile, el-Zahar re-affirmed his comments about Egypt on Al-Arabiya TV, adding: “It’s Egypt’s choice. If the Foreign Ministry wants to regain control over the issue, they should inform us so we can talk about it.”

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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