CAIRO -- The spokesman of Egypt's ultraconservative Islamist party told Israeli Army Radio in unprecedented remarks broadcast yesterday that the group is not opposed to the country's historic peace treaty with Israel.
Yousseri Hamad's interview with the Israeli broadcaster is unusual for followers of the Salafi Islamic trend, who typically shun Israel for its policies toward Palestinians and its annexation of east Jerusalem, home to Islam's third-holiest site.
The interview countered Israeli fears that Islamist parties would seek to cut ties with Israel.
In his remarks to the Israeli station, Hamad said the Salafi Nour Party is committed to agreements signed by previous Egyptian governments, including the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
"We are not opposed to the agreement, and we are saying that Egypt is committed to the agreements that previous Egyptian government have signed," he said, noting that if Egyptians want changes on the treaty, "the place for that is the negotiation table."
In response to the interview, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the comments were worth considering.
"This is certainly food for thought and we will of course keep observing very attentively developments in Egypt," he said.
Many Israelis are concerned that Islamist parties are looking to cancel the peace treaty, the first between Israel and an Arab nation. The agreement is a pillar of security for both countries. For Israel, it has allowed diversion of military resources to other fronts. Egypt has benefited from billions of dollars in U.S. military aid.
After the interview aired, Hamad told The Associated Press that he did not know he was talking to Israeli Army Radio, and he was told only it was for an Israeli broadcaster.
He said that had he known, he would not have agreed to the interview and that his party "without doubt" supports changes to the agreement, including raising troop levels in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel. He also said that there need to be guarantees for Palestinians.