Foreign Minister of Egypt Ahmed Aboul Gheit who met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, said in a press conference Wednesday that kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is alive and there are efforts being conducted to bring to his release. “It is important that we speak about this subject carefully and I don’t want to speak about the Egyptian efforts in this matter,” he added.
Livni thanked Egypt for their involvement in the efforts to free Gilad Shalit since his kidnapping in June. Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Gheit that he hopes Egypt will soon bring the message that Shalit had been released. Gheit also met with Prime Minister Olmert, Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, and Knesset members Silvan Shalom, Ami Ayalon, and Yossi Beilin.
Gheit expressed his deep gratitude to the policy of restraint and the Israeli efforts to strengthen the moderate forces in the Palestinian Authority. Olmert explained the complexity of the situation because of the continuous rocket fire against Israel during the ceasefire and Israel’s need to ensure the security of the Israeli citizens.
Other than the political issues on the agenda, Gheit’s visit was also important for the normalization of relations between Israel and Egypt, as several steps have been decided to increase bilateral relations. These steps include joint training of Israeli diplomats at the Foreign Ministry in Cairo, and several visits of Israeli officials to Egypt in the near future.
Livni told Gheit that the issue of flights between Egypt and Israel has been solved, and agreed to open talks regarding a mechanism for dealing with disasters in the Sinai. Livni also raised the issue of 88 Sudanese nationals who received their refugee status in Egypt before arriving in Israel. In addition, Livni asked to arrange a future meeting between agriculture ministers from both countries to increase cooperation in that area, including intensifying activities of the MASHAV international development center in Egypt.
The two also agreed that Israel and Egypt will mark 2007 as the “year of peace” in honor of 30 years to Anwar Al Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem.