Morsi denies sending friendly letter to Peres

Missive, which Israeli sources insist is genuine, expresses hopes for regional stability and ‘deep thanks’ for president’s Ramadan good wishes

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi (photo credit: AP/Maya Alleruzzo)
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi (photo credit: AP/Maya Alleruzzo)

The letter sent to President Shimon Peres in the name of Mohammed Morsi is a hoax, the Egyptian president’s office said on Tuesday evening.

Yasser Ali, a spokesman for Morsi, rejected claims that Morsi had sent any correspondence to Peres.

“This report is completely false,” Ali told the website of establishment Egyptian daily Al-Ahram. “President Morsi did not send any correspondence to the Israeli president, and the reports to that effect in Israeli newspapers today are fabricated. These fabrications do not stop.”

Peres’s office declined to officially comment on the report. However, Israeli sources remained adamant that the letter was genuine, and news of its receipt, “Communicated by the President’s Office,” remained on the Foreign Ministry’s website as of midnight Tuesday.

An official in Peres’s office — speaking anonymously because the issue concerned sensitive diplomatic relations between the two countries — said the president’s aides received the official communique Tuesday from the Egyptian ambassador to Israel, both by registered mail and by fax from the embassy in Tel Aviv.

Peres’s office asked the Egyptian ambassador if it could publicize the letter or if it should be kept secret, the official said. The Egyptian envoy phoned Morsi’s office to inquire, the official said, and then told Peres’s aides that Morsi’s staff had given the green light to make the letter public.

Peres’s office sent reporters a copy of what was said to be the faxed letter. The top of the letter featured a time stamp with Tuesday’s date, the phone number from which the fax was sent, and the label “EGY EMB TEL AVIV.”

The fax number, which appeared to be printed automatically from the machine that sent the message, was a number listed on Israel’s Foreign Ministry website as belonging to the Egyptian Embassy in Israel.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry did not provide an immediate response on the issue.

In the brief missive attributed to the Islamist leader, Morsi said that Egypt is committed to regional security and stability, including for the Israeli people. Receipt of the letter was confirmed by Peres’s office, and online by the Foreign Ministry, on Tuesday.

In the two-sentence letter — undated, unsigned, misspelling Peres’s name as “Perez,” and referring to the region as the “Middle east” — the newly elected Islamist head of state offered his “deep thanks” for the Israeli president’s recent Ramadan good wishes. It expressed Morsi’s interest in getting the peace process back on track and achieving “security and stability for all peoples of the region, including that [sic] Israeli people.”

At the beginning of the month, Peres penned a letter of congratulations to Morsi and reassured him of Israel’s desire to maintain peaceful relations. The president also sent separate Ramadan wishes in advance of the holiday’s commencement.

Morsi’s letter gave no indication of whether he would meet with Peres or other Israeli leaders. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly pressured Morsi to meet with Netanyahu during a July 14 meeting.

At a press conference later that day, she denied taking any steps to bring Morsi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu together. “It is up to the two nations, and the president and the prime minister, to make their own scheduling plans,” she said.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's letter to President Shimon Peres. (Courtesy)
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s letter to President Shimon Peres. (Courtesy)

Since being inaugurated as president of Egypt at the end of June, Morsi has refrained from overt attacks on Israel, and has indicated that he intends to honor the 1979 peace treaty.

“As someone who took part in the process that led to the signing of the peace agreement between your country and mine, I know that both Egypt and Israel see with utmost importance peace and stability in our region as something that serves the interests of all peoples of the region,” Peres wrote in his letter to Morsi, which was written and signed in Arabic.

Raphael Ahren and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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