A spokesman for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi confirmed on Thursday that the president had sent a letter to Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres calling him a good friend.
The letter, presented to Peres by incoming ambassador Atef Salem on Wednesday, sparked an outcry in Egypt for marking a new level of normalization, with one Muslim Brotherhood official calling it a “fabrication.”
But Morsi spokesman Yassir Ali told Egyptian state-run newspaper Ahram that the letter was “100 percent correct.”
The letter began by calling Peres a “great and good friend,” and went on to express a desire for “maintaining and strengthening the cordial relations which so happily exist between our two countries.” Morsi closed his letter, which largely followed standard diplomatic language for the exchange of ambassadors, by expressing “highest esteem and consideration.”
While Morsi, from the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood movement, has vowed to honor any treaty with Israel, he has also been chilly toward Jerusalem, rebuffing calls for high-level meetings.
Although the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm displayed a photo of the letter published by The Times of Israel, asserting its authenticity, Muslim Brotherhood leader Gamal Muhammad Heshmat told Ahram late Wednesday that the letter was “fabricated,” noting that “Zionist media have leaked baseless statements by Morsi in the past.”
In July, Peres’s office reported that it had received a friendly letter from Morsi in which the Egyptian leader expressed hopes for regional stability and “deep thanks” for Peres’s Ramadan good wishes. In that note, Morsi also said his country was committed to regional security and stability, including for the Israeli people. After The Times of Israel and other Israeli media reported on the missive, and published the letter, a spokesman for Morsi denied any correspondence had been sent to Peres.