Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi. Photo: Reuters
Foreign Minister Bob Carr has praised in glowing terms the role played by Islamist-led Egypt in helping broker the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza, saying it bodes well for the future stability of the Middle East.
After a week of fighting that has claimed at least 157 lives, Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement began a ceasefire at 6am AEDT on Thursday, in a deal in which Egypt was pivotal.
''One of the things that stands out is the leadership role of someone who could be a very great figure in Middle Eastern history indeed and that's President Mursi of Egypt,'' Senator Carr said.
Egypt's intervention is significant because there have been concerns that the country - which has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1979 - would creep back towards hostilities with the Jewish state under the Muslim Brotherhood leadership of President Mohamed Mursi.
Egypt was accused of breaching the treaty in August after deploying forces in the Sinai peninsula without informing Israel. And in September, after Dr Mursi failed to condemn violent protests against the US embassy in Cairo, US President Barack Obama pointedly said he did not consider Egypt ''an ally'' before adding ''but we don't consider them an enemy''.
But Senator Carr said the willingness of Israel and Gaza willing to strike a truce gave him hope and added: ''The fact you've got an Egyptian leader standing behind it gives me more hope''.
He said: ''One of the motivations for Egypt will be its desire to return to a leadership role after a phase that the current leadership sees as years of somnolence under the Mubarak dictatorship.
''Egypt, believing itself to be a special nation culturally (and) historically ... will be feeling its way to a new leadership role.
''What this demonstrates is the world can benefit, the Middle East will benefit, from that leadership role.''
He praised the fact that a Muslim Brotherhood leader - his country's first elected, civilian president - was ''able so quickly to demonstrate a contribution on peace-building in the Middle East''.
''I believe that President Mursi wants to renovate and revive the Egyptian leadership role in the region.''
He said he spoke to the Egyptian Ambassador today and asked him to pass on ''our support, our admiration'' for Egypt's leadership.
The Muslim Brotherhood, banned under Mr Mubarak's two decades of rule but now the most powerful political force in the Middle East's most populous nation, is more pragmatic than other Islamists such as the hardline Salafist movement.
Senator Carr said his recent meetings with members of the party in Cairo showed there were ''more gradations in the thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood than people in the West might've assumed''.
He said of Dr Mursi: ''I was struck by the fact that he was first and foremost an Egyptian nationalist.''
He said it was ''brave for Israel and brave for Palestinians'' to commit to the ceasefire.
In a separate statement, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Egypt's intervention was ''a welcome demonstration of Egypt's regional leadership''.