Amin Gemayel visits Egypt, holds meeting with Coptic Pope

The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel called Sunday for dialogue between Arab states to lay the foundations for political systems based on freedom, democracy and equality among all citizens of the Arab world.

Gemayel made his remarks during a visit to Egypt, where he met with Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church and political officials. His visit came in the wake of clashes that left 26 Copts dead last week.

The former president said Egypt would overcome such incidents and establish a new system that promotes freedom and the participation of all factions in drawing the map of the country’s future.

“All officials whom I met stressed that they will not allow Egypt to fall prey to religious conflicts that will harm both Christians and Muslims,” Gemayel told reporters following his meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Amro.

Amro said that the Egyptian people were confronting attempts to spark strife in their country when, in a show of solidarity, Muslims and Christians joined hands in peaceful rallies after Friday prayers.

Egypt’s military rulers have blamed Christian protesters and infiltrators for triggering the clashes, which were the worst between the military and protesters in the eight months since Egypt’s uprising began and have raised questions about the ruling military council.

Gemayel said that Egypt should be as a model for stability on the domestic and regional level.

“I believe in the maturity of Egyptians and their sense of national responsibility. Egypt will undoubtedly overcome these incidents and lay the foundations for a new situation that includes all factions and respect for freedom of belief and the participation of all parties in the future of the country,” he said.

Some Coptic Christians, who represent about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, say they are treated like second-class citizens and that repeated attacks on them go unpunished, while many Egyptian Muslims view Christians with suspicion, claiming they are supported and influenced by Western powers.

Asked whether he feared civil war in Syria, Gemayel said he hoped for stability to reign in the country as it moves toward the promotion of democracy.

Touching on the situation in Lebanon, Gemayel said no signs have emerged so far with regard to a possible agreement to fund the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and accused some of seeking to obstruct justice.

Gemayel also held talks with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani and is scheduled to meet al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb.