Netanyahu welcomes Egyptian military reassurances


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed statements by Egypt’s military that it would honor the country’s peace treaty with Israel.

"The longstanding peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has greatly contributed to both countries and is the cornerstone for peace and stability in the entire Middle East," Netanyahu said Saturday night in his first comments since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned on Feb. 11, ceding power to the military.

Netanyahu expanded on the statement Sunday at the regular Cabinet meeting.

"The peace agreement with Israel has stood for many years. During this period, all Egyptian governments have upheld and advanced it ,and we believe that it is the cornerstone of peace and stability, not only between the two countries, but in the entire Middle East as well," he said.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke by phone with Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s Higher Military Council, in the first contact between Israel and Egypt’s new military rulers.

In an announcement broadcast on state television Saturday, an Egyptian army spokesman pledged that Egypt would honor all its international and regional treaties. 

Netanyahu is set to meet Sunday with U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to discuss the changing situation in Egypt. Mullen also is scheduled to meet with other top Israeli defense officials, according to The Washington Post.

Mullen is in Israel to participate in a farewell ceremony for outgoing Israeli military chief Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. He is then scheduled to travel to Jordan and Egypt. 

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