Barak and Egyptian counterpart reportedly come to terms over Sinai offensive
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Barak and Egyptian counterpart reportedly come to terms over Sinai offensive

New Egyptian defense minister el-Sissi reassures Israeli counterpart over military buildup in peninsula

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, swears in newly-appointed Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Cairo on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012. (photo credit: Egyptian Presidency/AP)
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, swears in newly-appointed Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Cairo on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012. (photo credit: Egyptian Presidency/AP)

Newly installed Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sissi  told his Israeli counterpart that Cairo was committed to keeping to its peace treaty with Israel, even as Egyptian troops flowed into the Sinai in an anti-terror operation.

Sissi reportedly phoned Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently to calm fears in Jerusalem over Egypt’s military buildup in the Sinai, which Cairo says is needed to root out terrorist elements from the largely lawless peninsula.

The conversation was reported by London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat on Friday.

A senior Egyptian military source told the paper that Barak and Sissi had reached an agreement on the matter. It is not clear what the agreement was.

Earlier this week, Jerusalem sent a letter to Cairo protesting the buildup of tanks, aircraft and rocket launchers in the peninsula, following a terror attack that left 16 Egyptian border police dead in Rafah on August 5.

Under the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Cairo must coordinate any military maneuvers in much of the peninsula with Israel,  which sees the demilitarized territory as a buffer zone against a future war with Egypt.

Sissi reportedly met with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi after speaking to Barak.

The conversation between the two defense ministers would be the highest-level contact between the neighbors since a popular revolution in Egypt saw the overthrow of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak and the election of an Islamist-dominated government.

However, officials have said there have been constant low-key and low-level contacts between the countries.

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