- - Sunday, October 21, 2012

JERUSALEM — New ambassadors from Egypt and Jordan have presented their diplomatic credentials to Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Ambassador Atef Salem al-Ahl told Mr. Peres that Egypt’s new Islamist government remains committed to peace with the Jewish state.

Israel and Egypt signed a historic peace agreement in 1979 that has since been the bedrock of relations between the countries, but ties have grown tense since longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — a steadfast supporter of the treaty — was ousted in a popular uprising last year and Islamist Mohammed Morsi was elected his successor in June.

Presenting his credentials Wednesday, Mr. al-Ahl said Egypt is “committed to all the agreements we signed with Israel and we are also committed to the peace treaty with Israel.”

Jordan’s new ambassador to Israel, Walid Obeidat, also on Wednesday officially took up his post, which had been vacant for two years despite diplomatic relations between the countries since 1994.

Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab countries to have peace treaties with Israel.

The agreements are widely unpopular in both Arab countries because of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. A large part of the Jordanian population is of Palestinian origin.

Egypt’s new president, who hails from the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, has been cooler toward Israel than Mr. Mubarak’s autocratic regime was.

But the Brotherhood repeatedly has said it will abide by the peace accord but has called for changes in the limits on troop numbers in the Sinai Peninsula, saying they impinge on Egyptian sovereignty.

SAUDI ARABIA

Syrians to get visas for Mecca pilgrimage

BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia will grant visas to Syrians wishing to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, set to begin next week, according to the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia, a bastion of Sunni Islam, has been one of the staunchest supporters of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The majority of Syria’s population is Sunni, while the regime is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

“King Abdullah’s instructions are aimed at facilitating procedures to grant visas to Syrian citizens wishing to perform the hajj, and they have been communicated to consulates and embassies in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan,” Ambassador Ali Awad Aassiri told Lebanon’s National News Agency.

“A special department has been opened at the embassy in Beirut to offer all the necessary services to grant visas,” he said.

Mr. Aassiri added that the Saudi king “grants special attention to the well-being of Syrian citizens.”

Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq currently host a total of at least 300,000 Syrian refugees who fled the deadly conflict that has ravaged their homeland, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

CYPRUS

Lenders due for talkson economic bailout

NICOSIA — International lenders are due in Cyprus this week to discuss a bailout to protect the economy and Cypriot banks threatened by the Greek financial crisis.

Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly said intensive discussions are aimed at sealing a deal by Nov. 12.

“Time is limited as we are working to a tight schedule without room to maneuver,” he told reporters last week.

Mr. Shiarly was speaking after more talks with political parties to reach a consensus on a package of countermeasures to harsh terms proposed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Last week, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged Cypriot political parties and unions to make the “huge effort” required to meet the austerity challenge needed to put the recession-hit economy back on track.

Cypriot President Demetris Christofias is negotiating with party leaders and influential unions to aim for consensus on a counter-package of milder cuts than those demanded by the lenders.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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