Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Deal elevates Egyptian leader as major player

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CAIRO, Egypt -- The Gaza ceasefire deal reached today marks a startling trajectory for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi: The Islamist leader who refuses to talk to Israelis or even say the country's name mediated for it and finally turned himself into Israel's de facto protector.

The accord inserts Egypt, to an unprecedented degree, into the conflict between Israel and Hamas, establishing it as the arbiter ensuring militant rocket fire into Israel stops and Israel allows the opening of the long-blockaded Gaza Strip and stops its own attacks against Hamas.

In return, Morsi emerged as a major regional player. He won the trust of the United States and Israel, which once worried over the rise of an Islamist leader in Egypt but throughout the week-long Gaza crisis saw him as the figure most able to deliver a deal with Gaza's Hamas rulers.

"I want to thank President Morsi for his personal leadership to de-escalate the situation in Gaza and end the violence," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who met Morsi today, said at a Cairo press conference with Egypt's foreign minister announcing the accord.

"This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt's new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace," she said.

After Israel launched its assault on Gaza a week ago, aimed at stopping militant rocket fire, Morsi's palace in a Cairo suburb became the Middle East's diplomacy central.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 22, 2012 A12

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