Rivlin to Egypt ambassador: Let’s cooperate in fight against coronavirus
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Rivlin to Egypt ambassador: Let’s cooperate in fight against coronavirus

At Jerusalem meeting to mark 41st anniversary of 1979 peace treaty, president proposes ‘joint action’ between experts in the fields of health, economics and crisis management

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin hosts Khaled Azmi, Egypt's ambassador to Israel, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on March 26, 2020. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin hosts Khaled Azmi, Egypt's ambassador to Israel, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on March 26, 2020. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday hosted the Egyptian ambassador to Israel, Khaled Azmi, and offered to cooperate on the fight against the widening COVID-19 pandemic, his office announced Thursday.

“The president noted that the coronavirus makes no distinctions for national borders, and that international cooperation is vital in fighting it,” the President’s Residence said in a readout of the meeting, which took place at Rivlin’s official Jerusalem residence.

“He stressed that Israel is open to any initiative for joint action between experts in the fields of health, economics and crisis management that benefits the future of the peoples of the region.”

Azmi briefed the president on the spread of the coronavirus in his country and the ways it is being dealt with, “stressing that international cooperation has a significant role to play in fighting the disease and limiting its spread,” according to the readout.

As of Thursday, Egypt has announced 456 diagnosed cases of coronavirus with 21 deaths, in comparison to Israel’s 2,666 cases but eight deaths.

So far, Israel has not cooperated or coordinated its emergency response to the pandemic with Arab states in the region, not even with the two states with which it has formal diplomatic relations — Egypt and Jordan — a Foreign Ministry spokesperson told The Times of Israel last week.

Egyptians gather in downtown Cairo as they wait to get tested for coronavirus on March 8, 2020. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

The official reason for the president’s meeting with the Egyptian envoy was the 41st anniversary of the Israel-Egypt Peace treaty.

The long-time enemies signed a historic peace deal on March 26, 1979, at the White House lawn in Washington, D.C.

“Tomorrow, we mark 41 years since the signing of the historic peace treaty between our countries, an agreement that is a central component of regional stability as a whole,” Rivlin said.

He repeated his wish to host his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Jerusalem.

According to the Israeli readout, the Egyptian envoy said that the 1979 peace treaty was “indeed a significant milestone that ensures the security of our region.”

The meeting also touched on energy cooperation between Jerusalem and Cairo, “with attention to the security of the gas pipeline in Sinai,”according to Rivlin’s office.

Rivlin also asked Azmi to send his warmest wishes to the Coptic community in Egypt ahead of the Easter holiday, which will be celebrated in a more limited way this year because of the virus.

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