Egypt's Ambassador to Israel Yasser Rida expressed his optimism Wednesday regarding the prospects of signing a peace agreement between Israel
and the Palestinians.
The remarks were made on the backdrop of recent tensions between Cairo and Jerusalem, and just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
is slated to meet
with President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
Rida spoke at Tel Aviv University in honor of 31 years to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.
In a conversation with Ynet at the event, he said, "If there is political will, Israel and the Palestinians can achieve peace within one year."
Regarding the deadlock in negotiations for the release of captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit,
Rida placed the ball in Israel's and Hamas'
court. "They are the only ones who need to pay the price or not. We cannot do any more, but we will be willing to continue efforts to bring Shalit to his family," he said.
In his speech, the envoy also referred to the Iranian nuclear program, but placed veiled responsibility for the situation on Israel.
Egypt, together with other moderate elements who support peace, is taking great action in order to deal with extremists – countries, organizations, or private groups – who are liable to bring about destruction in our region, he said. Ever since the 80s, Cairo has been interested in ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction and is opposed to any country or organization obtaining them, he added.
Regarding the recent crisis between Israel and Egypt after Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit called Israel an "enemy"
while visiting Lebanon, Rida reiterated Cairo's statement that the minister's remarks were misunderstood.
"My visit here demonstrates that more than anything," Rida said.
During the event, the envoy was asked about the potential effect Egyptian opposition, which is hostile towards Israel, could have on relations between the two countries.
Rida said the opposition was not against the peace agreement or against Israel. T"hey do not want war," he said, adding that most of the world supports peace, but there will always be other voices, just like in Israel.