Egyptian Grand Mufti visits Israel

A senior Egyptian cleric has made a rare visit to Jerusalem for the opening of a new Islamic centre in the city.

Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, spent two hours in the city and visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray. He was joined on the trip by a Jordanian official representing King Abdullah on religious matters.

According to his spokesman Azzam al-Khatib, the Grand Mufti also spent time the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Greek Orthodox patriarchate.

Although Egypt and Israel have had official ties since 1979, it remains highly unusual for Islamic clerics to visit the Jewish st ate.

The growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on Egyptian politics, and its ramifications for relations with its neighbour, has been watched carefully in Israel since last year's Arab Spring. Earlier this week the Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat El-Shater was barred from running in the country's upcoming presidential vote.

In a piece in The Times this week, the party's secretary general Amr Darrag criticised the decision and said that they would " not be the ones who violate any" of Egypt's existing international treaties.

He added: "But while we will uphold our international obligations , we will also continue to support Palestinians."

    Last updated: 6:38pm, April 18 2012