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While refuting allegations that a Hezbollah delegation travelled to Egypt for talks, Hamdy did confirm meeting with representatives of the group in Lebanon.
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Analysis: Egyptian Shift on
Hezbollah Reflects New Realities

The Jamestown Foundation
The course of Egyptian politics and society in the post-revolution era hangs in the balance between stability and chaos. With a democratic transition process mired in turbulence and violence, observers of Egyptian affairs remain fixated on the internecine competition between rival and overlapping factions – liberal, secular, leftist and Islamist – angling to challenge the fledgling Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)-led government of President Muhammad Mursi and its Muslim Brotherhood progenitor. Lost amid the caustic rhetoric and heated street battles are indications that a significant shift is afoot related to Egypt's foreign policy toward Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The fall of Hosni Mubarak has raised a number of questions regarding the future of Egyptian foreign policy. An avowed strategic ally of the United States and a quiet friend of Israel, the Mubarak regime had served as a mainstay of a regional alliance system shepherded by Washington. Despite popular opposition to its foreign policy orientation, Mubarak's Egypt toed the US and Israeli lines with respect to Hezbollah, which was regarded as an enemy of Egypt that needed to be contained and defeated.

In a December, 2012 interview, Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Hamdy revealed that Cairo was eager to engage with Hezbollah. Referring to it as a "real political and military force" in Lebanon, Hamdy's words portend a marked departure in Egyptian foreign policy. Hamdy also acknowledged the indispensability of engaging Hezbollah due to its preeminent position in Lebanon: "You cannot discuss politics in Lebanon without having a relationship with Hezbollah" (Daily Star [Beirut], December 29, 2012).

While alluding indirectly to Hezbollah's international reach and foreign relationships, namely its alliances with Iran and Syria – its partners in the Axis of Resistance – the Egyptian ambassador called on the group to act within the confines of Lebanon and Lebanese national interests as opposed to what he referred to as the interests of "others." At the same time, Hamdy recognized the legitimacy of Hezbollah's role as a resistance force in defense of Lebanon against Israel: "Resistance in the sense of defending Lebanese territory...That's their primary role. We think that as a resistance movement they have done a good job to keep on defending Lebanese territory and trying to regain land occupied by Israel is legal and legitimate." While refuting allegations that a Hezbollah delegation travelled to Egypt for talks, Hamdy did confirm meeting with representatives of the group in Lebanon (Daily Star, December 29). The diplomatic praise and respect for Hezbollah coming from Egyptian officialdom today stands in stark contrast to the hostile language reserved for the group in the Mubarak regime.


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