Egypt to strengthen ties with Hezbollah

Egypt will develop its ties with Hezbollah, recognizing it as a “real political and military force,” said an Egyptian official to Lebanese press. The announcement signals a U-turn in policy where Egypt had accused the group of operating terror cells.

In an interview with Lebanese publication the Daily Star, Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Hamdy said that his country’s newly-elected Islamist government would build “tight” relations with Hezbollah.

He stated that the ruling Muslim Brotherhood was “stretching out its hand” to its neighbors with a view to developing its foreign policy and furthering interests.

“You cannot discuss politics in Lebanon without having a relationship with Hezbollah. It is a real force on the ground. It has a big political and military influence in Lebanon,” Hamdy stressed to the Daily Star.

He went on to deny reports that a delegation from the political group had already visited Egypt for negotiations, but conceded that he had met with Hezbollah political bureau members for discussions “to understand each other better.”

Commenting on Hezbollah’s open support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hamdy emphasized the need to “keep all the parties in Lebanon away from what is happening in Syria. Not only Hezbollah.”

Lebanon has been increasingly drawn into neighboring Syria’s spiraling conflict with sectarian tensions running high in the country, rival factions supporting both Assad and the opposition clashing in violent altercations.

Egypt’s relations with Hezbollah were strained during ex-President Hosni Mubarak’s reign. The worsening in relations can mainly be attributed to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and Egypt’s refusal to intervene to support Gaza-based Palestinians during Israel’s 2008 incursion into Gaza.

Mubarak was ousted in last year’s uprising that was intended to usher in a new era of democracy in Egypt.rt