Israel must insist on the upholding of the provisions of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, and not ignore Cairo’s mobilization of troops and equipment into the Sinai Peninsula without Jerusalem’s consultation, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Tuesday.
Jerusalem had earlier expressed concern that Cairo failed to inform Israel that it had transferred tanks and military aircraft to the Sinai Peninsula as part of its campaign against Islamist terrorist organizations operating there.
“We need to be stubborn and insist on every single detail, otherwise it will be a slippery slope concerning the enforcement of the peace treaty,” Liberman said in a closed-door meeting with senior Israeli diplomats.
Israel reportedly told Egypt in a missive sent through Washington that Egypt must remove its tanks from the Sinai Peninsula because their continued presence violates the peace agreement between the two countries.
The 1979 Camp David Accords dictated that “no more than one division (mechanized or infantry) of Egyptian armed forces will be stationed” more than 30 miles east of the Suez Canal. Egypt reportedly moved several M-60 tanks to the area surrounding the northern Sinai town of el-Arish.
An Egyptian presidential spokesperson on Tuesday responded to Israeli criticism of the move saying that the Sinai counterterrorism operation is essential to national security, and that Egypt received no request to remove its forces.
A senior official in Cairo also remarked to Reuters that Egypt is acting according to agreements made with Israel in the wake of the August 2011 cross-border terrorist attack in which six Israeli civilians and two soldiers were killed.
“Egypt is not obliged to send Israel a daily report on the operation in the Sinai,” the official added.
The message to Cairo was sent via the White House in an effort to give the warning added weight and to bridge the shaky relationship between Israeli and Egyptian security forces, Maariv reported on Tuesday. Israel was protesting the ongoing increase in military presence, which had developed without coordination with Jerusalem.
Egypt has been mobilizing extra forces in the Sinai in a crackdown on terrorist targets there, after terrorists killed 16 Egyptian border guards in an August 5 attack at the Egypt-Gaza-Israel border. The terrorists then smashed across the border into Israel in a commandeered Egyptian army APV, before being blown up by the Israel Air Force.
Israel relinquished the Sinai, captured in the 1967 war, as part of its 1979 peace accord with Egypt. The treaty limited Egyptian military deployment in the area, to assuage Israeli security concerns. A mechanism built into the 1979 military annex provides for amendments to the framework of Egypt’s military deployment, coordinated by the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) who are deployed there.
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