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Egypt will stand by its pacts with Israel, says new U.N. ambassador

Egyptian U.N. Ambassador Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil
Egyptian U.N. Ambassador Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil CBS News/Pamela Falk

(CBS News) Egypt's newly-installed ambassador to the United Nations says the Camp David accords and other pacts with Israel will continue in effect under the new administration of President Mohammed Morsi.

In an interview at the U.N. Monday, the new Egyptian U.N. Ambassador Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil told CBS News that Egypt will stand by all its international obligations and treaties.

"My first statement in front of the Security Council was in an open meeting regarding the protection of civilians. It was the day after he (Mohammed Morsi) was sworn in and I had the pleasure to re-announce that he had declared very openly to Egypt and to the world that we are respecting our international obligations and all treaties we are a part of," said Khalil.

Asked directly if that included the Camp David accord, which was signed in 1979 and ended 30 years of conflict between Israel and Egypt, Khalil said "absolutely."

Despite the diplomat's assurances, there will likely be major differences between the new government and Israel, as has been pointed out by diplomats and politicians.

Thomas L. Friedman, writing in The New York Times, asked, "Is the election of Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, as president of Egypt the beginning of the end of the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt?"

"It doesn't have to be," continued Friedman. "In fact, it could actually be the beginning of a real peace between the Israeli and the Egyptian peoples, instead of what we've had: a cold, formal peace between Israel and a single Egyptian pharaoh."

While Egypt will respect its pacts of peace with Israel, the ambassador said the new Egyptian government will also show support for Palestinians, especially if they bring up the issue of statehood before the United Nations again soon.

"This is a decision of the Palestinians, but whatever decision the Palestinians would take, we will support that, I am sure of that," Khalil said.

On the subject of U.N. efforts for a nuclear-free Middle East, Khalil said Egypt looks forward to having the Middle East as a zone free of nuclear weapons.

Asked about an upcoming summit on nuclear weapons in the Middle East, Khalil said: "We do expect the international community to comply with its decision (to hold a summit on the subject) in 2012."

While downplaying the confrontation between the new president and the military, Khalil said Egyptians were looking for a more prominent role for their country to play internationally in the future. For example, he said he was interested in more of a role in the resolution to the conflict in Syria.

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"We did participate in all the meetings of the Arab League, we are participating in the meetings of the Friends of Syria, and we are looking to participate more in other meetings that relate to the situation in the region including Syria and including other issues. We did not participate in the meetings in Geneva (the Action Group). We were not invited. The message we are conveying is that Egypt is very much interested in its region and we have an important role to play and that we should be included in all these forums," Khalil said.

The new ambassador insists Egypt is headed to a good place in the future.

"The wheel of history has turned. It is not going to be turned back. What has happened in Egypt is for the better," Khalil said.

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