Middle East

Egypt urges US to back Palestinian state declaration

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Araby
Image caption Nabil al-Araby's call is not without risks

The Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Araby has urged the United States to support the declaration of an independent Palestinian state.

The call comes after the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah brokered last week by Egypt.

Both Israel and the US have said they will not deal with Hamas, and have until now opposed a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.

The statement marks yet another big shift in Egypt's foreign policy.

The new call marks a move away from Egypt's past compliance with the United States and Israel, which have strongly opposed the Palestinian authority's campaign to win backing for a unilateral declaration of statehood.

Mr Araby says Egypt now fully supports the Palestinian plan, and has urged the US to do the same.

He said the US should view a re-united Palestinian movement, including Hamas, as a positive development, and that it should persuade Israel to negotiate with it.

Both Israel and the US have insisted they will not deal with any side that includes Hamas, which they regard as a terrorist group.

Under President Hosni Mubarak Egypt used to take the same view, but the new government has moved quickly to distance itself from Israel, helping broker the Palestinian reconciliation deal last week.

Financial needs

This policy change is popular in Egypt, but it is not without risks.

It will be very unpopular in the US Congress, where the substantial annual aid package to Egypt must be approved.

Egypt is also seeking additional financial support from western and Gulf states, to help cover the immense cost to its economy of this year's upheavals.

It must weigh up the benefits of a more populist foreign policy against those very real and immediate needs.