Egypt ambassador back in Israel after 4-year break
Egypt returned an ambassador to Israel Thursday more than four years after Cairo recalled its envoy at the outset of a Palestinian revolt.
The restoration of full diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt underscored improving ties ahead of Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip later this year and a de facto cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Like every ambassador in every country I aspire to develop the relations between our two nations," he said.
Haaretz quoted him as saying he was bringing a message of peace and cooperation and hoped that the overall Israeli-Arab conflict could be resolved in a just manner.
Egypt had pledged at a Feb. 8 summit it hosted between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to send back an ambassador to Israel.
Israel hopes to enlist Egypt's aid to prevent arms smuggling along the Gaza-Egypt border and stabilize the Palestinian Authority's hold over Gaza after it withdraws. Egypt controlled Gaza before Israel occupied it in the 1967 Middle East war.
Assem was previously Egypt's ambassador to Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia, according to the Foreign Ministry in Cairo. His predecessor, Mohamed Bassiouny, was recalled in late 2000 in protest at Israel's handling of the Palestinian uprising which began shortly after peace talks focusing on Palestinian statehood in occupied territories deadlocked.
Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, signing a treaty in 1979. Jordan followed in 1994. Jordan sent a new ambassador in February to replace its envoy withdrawn in 2000, also over Israel's response to the Palestinian revolt.