Report: Egypt’s defense minister says country committed to peace with Israel

(JTA) — Egypt’s defense minister reportedly told his Israeli counterpart that Egypt is committed to its peace accord with Israel.

Abdel Fattah el-Sissi initiated the call with Israel’s Ehud Barak, according to Al-Hayat, a London-based newspaper. 

The conversation between the two defense ministers is the highest-level direct contact between the neighboring countries since a popular revolution in Egypt saw the overthrow of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak and the subsequent election of an Islamist-dominated government. Officials on both sides have said there have been constant low-level contacts between the two countries.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, appointed el-Sissi earlier this month.

El-Sissi reportedly phoned Barak recently to calm fears in Jerusalem over Egypt’s military build-up in the Sinai, which Cairo says is needed to root out terrorist elements from the largely lawless peninsula. Al-Hayat quoted an unnamed senior Egyptian military source as saying that Barak and el-Sessi had reached an agreement on the matter, the details of which are not clear.

El-Sissi met with Morsi after speaking to Barak, according to Al-Hayat. 

Earlier this week, Jerusalem sent a letter to Cairo protesting the build-up of tanks, aircraft and rocket launchers in the peninsula following a terror attack that left 16 Egyptian border police dead in Rafah. Under the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Cairo must coordinate any military maneuvers in much of the peninsula with Israel, which views the demilitarized territory as a buffer zone against a future war with its southern neighbor.

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