Egypt: No need to amend treaty with Israel

Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) — A spokesman for Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi said Wednesday that there is currently no need to amend the peace treaty with Israel, despite calls in Cairo to revise the 1979 accord to allow the country to beef up its presence in the Sinai Peninsula to combat militants there, the state news agency reported.

For years, many Egyptians have considered the limitations on troop deployments to impinge on national sovereignty. Egyptian political groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, have called for revising the treaty, particularly as lawlessness in the peninsula has increased since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

The Jewish state has allowed Egypt to temporarily strengthen its forces in the Sinai to fight Islamist militants who have attacked targets both in Egypt and across the border in Israel. But it is opposed to formalizing any changes to the treaty, Israel's first with an Arab country.

The treaty restored Sinai, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, to Egyptian control. Areas near the border were demilitarized, however. The country's hardline foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday there was "no chance" Israel would reevaluate the terms of the peace deal.

Yasser Ali, speaking from New York where Morsi is attending the U.N. General Assembly, said Egypt now has the troops it needs in the Sinai to restore security. The military has been conducting a sweep against Islamist militants there following an August assault on an outpost that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers, the worst attack on the army in peacetime.

Ali said the operation is "unhindered" and will continue until it is successful. His comments came in response to published comments by one of Morsi's advisers, who said he will soon present the president with a proposal to amend the 1979 treaty. Mohammed Seif el-Dawla was quoted by the independent Dostor daily as saying the proposed changes, not described, were based on "popular demand and a strategic and security need."

"With all due respect to all political and intellectual luminaries on the presidential advisory panel, only the president and his spokesman speak for the presidency," Ali said, according to the state news agency MENA.

Israel had welcomed the crackdown by Egypt, which deployed armored personnel carriers and attack helicopters to root out militants in the Sinai this summer. But it balked once Egypt sent in tanks, some of which were removed after Israel complained.

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