An Egyptian military source said Wednesday that the recent deployment of troops in the Sinai peninsula was fully coordinated with Israel, refuting media reports that the move violated the Israel-Egypt peace treaty.
The al-Masry al-Youm newspaper quoted a member of Egypt's Higher Military Council as saying that Egyptian forces entered Sinai only following consultations with Israel.
In light of Israeli qualms over Egyptian troops in Sinai, he said, the Egyptian leadership has been conducting direct talks with Israel on the subject in order to secure Egyptian control over the Sinai Peninsula.
The official said that Egypt heeded Israeli demands that it retreat its troops and tanks from Sinai, and noted that Egypt is committed to the Camp David accords.
He added that the Israeli government understands Egypt's needs and demands since the move will not only aid in defending Egypt but also in protecting Israel and the entire region.
Earlier Wednesday, the U.S. State Department said it supports Egypt's military deployments in Sinai, but insists such actions be coordinated with Israel while observing the 1979 peace treaty.
"The Egyptians work hard now to defeat terror and turn back other security threats in the Sinai, we've been supportive of those efforts," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in Washington.
"We have encouraged them in those efforts not only to enhance security in Egypt but also to enhance security for neighbors, security in the region," she said, referring to Israel. "What we want to see is Egypt deal strongly with the security threats and do so in a way that supports the security of neighbors and is in keeping with its obligations."
Haaretz reported on Thursday Egypt deployed armored military forces in the peninsula, some of which without Israel's prior approval, as required by the 1979 accords. Israel's Prime Minister Office and Defense Ministry refused to publicly comment on the incident and only agreed to say that both side keep communication channels open.
A top Egyptian military official told Reuters Monday that Egypt intends to deploy additional reinforcements into Sinai, including armored tanks, fighter jets and rocket launchers in continued efforts to fight Islamic terrorist cells in the region.
In a first official statement, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Tuesday told 20 senior Israeli diplomats that Israel must not ignore Egyptian violations of the Israel-Egypt peace accord.
"We have to be insistent with the Egyptians and be strict about crossing every last 't,' because otherwise we will be on a slippery slope with regards to everything related to the peace agreement," Lieberman said.
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