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Turkish TV airs Egypt intelligence tapes on Jerusalem

Mekameleen TV airs tapes of Egypt official telling influential TV hosts to persuade viewers to accept US Jerusalem move.

A Turkey-based TV station has released audio recordings it said were of an Egyptian intelligence officer asking influential hosts in Egypt to persuade their viewers to accept a US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The recordings in Arabic, aired by the Mekameleen TV network late on Sunday, were first reported on by the New York Times and appeared to contradict Egypt's public condemnation of the US move.

Mekameleen TV is an Istanbul-based free-to-air satellite television channel, run mostly by exiled Egyptians.

The State Information Service in Cairo refuted the Times' January 6 report in a statement, saying its positions "are conveyed by the president, the foreign minister and in official statements".

Egypt's stance on Jerusalem remains unchanged, the statement said, adding that the Times does not provide evidence that the official named in its report, Captain Ashraf el-Kholi, was an officer with the country's intelligence service. 

Egypt was among one of the first countries to criticise the decision by US President Donald Trump, which prompted widespread international condemnation and deadly protests in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Cairo also submitted a resolution rejecting the move to the UN Security Council, but it was vetoed by the US.

However, in the recordings released by Mekameleen, el-Kholi can be heard telling one of the hosts that he was calling to lay out "the stance of Egypt's national security apparatus and what it stands to benefit from in this matter of announcing Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel".

"We like all our Arab brothers are denouncing this matter," el-Kholi continued. "After that, this thing will become a reality.

"Palestinians can't resist, and we don't want to go to war. We have enough on our plate as you know."

That call appeared to be with Saeed Hassaseen, a TV host and member of parliament, who the Times said backed out of an interview on the issue.

El-Kholi called the reaction to Trump's decision "dangerous" and said it could strengthen Hamas, the group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Egypt has long accused Hamas of supporting groups fighting its security forces in the Sinai Peninsula, a region that borders Gaza and Israel. 

"An Intifada [uprising] would not serve Egypt's national security interests because an Intifada would revive the Islamists and Hamas," el-Kholi said.

The other calls were with Mofid Fawzy, who denied speaking to el-Kholi, and with Egyptian singer and actress Youssra. Host Azmi Megahed, the fourth person el-Kholi spoke with, confirmed the conversation to the Times.

In his call with Megahed, el-Kholi suggested that the Palestinians should be happy with the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, home to the Palestinian Authority. 

"How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?" el-Kholi said.

He also asked Megahed to say that it was Egypt's regional rival, Qatar and its ruler, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who were guilty of collaborating with Israel. 


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