Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening with visiting Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman. The low-key meeting took place a week after Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit declared Lieberman would "not set foot on Egyptian soil."
"When a man speaks he must be aware that the words traveling from his brain to his tongue will have
consequences," Aboul Gheit said in an interview last week. "Therefore, we will work with the government of Israel but not through the Israeli foreign minister. I do not imagine that he will set foot on Egyptian soil so long as his positions, which we have seen before, remain as they are."
The meeting took place between Suleiman's meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. It was apparently kept secret at Cairo's request due to recent tensions sparked by Lieberman's rhetoric.
The foreign minister repeatedly stressed his appreciation of Egypt as a strategic partner, and his aides said the tense diplomatic relations appear to have thawed after the meeting.
Peres and Suleiman discussed the cooperation between Israel and Egypt, and the efforts to stop the flow of arms into the Gaza Strip through the Sinai. Peres thanked Suleiman for Egypt's role in promoting stability in the Middle East, adding that Israel views its peace treaty with Egypt as vitally important.
At Suleiman's meeting with Netanyahu earlier in the day, the prime minister said: "Egypt and Israel have shared interests, the most important of which is peace. Our relationship is one of mutual respect, friendship, and cooperation. I use this opportunity to send a warm greeting to President (Hosni) Mubarak."
Suleiman on his part invited Netanyahu to a meeting with Mubarak, though a date has yet to be set. He also invited Lieberman, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Foreign Ministry officials claimed on Tuesday that one of reasons for Suleiman's visit was to thaw the ties between the two countries. The appointment of Lieberman to the office of foreign minister greatly exacerbated existing tensions. In the past Lieberman has made a number of statements that have
enraged Cairo. During a speech in the Knesset six months ago he told President Mubarak that he "could go to hell" if he did not want to come to Israel.
Lieberman also threatened Israel would bomb the Aswan Dam if Egypt deployed its military in the Sinai.
Suleiman began his visit meeting with Barak, and the two discussed a series of issues pertaining to security and political matters in the region, including the efforts to release captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.