US backs Egypt’s Sinai crackdown

WASHINGTON - The United States supports Egypt’s recent military deployments to the Sinai Peninsula but said on Tuesday that Cairo must coordinate such action with Israel and observe the 1979 peace treaty.

By (Agenceis)

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Published: Fri 24 Aug 2012, 1:29 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 2:00 PM

“As 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 US 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.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently urged Cairo to withdraw tanks deployed near the border in Sinai, which aimed to suppress Islamist groups, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported on Tuesday.

And in a message sent to Cairo via the White House, Israel demanded that Egypt stop deploying more troops to the region without Israeli cooperation — in observation of the 1979 peace treaty between the nations.

That agreement stipulated the Sinai’s demilitarisation, but a senior Israeli official told Maariv that the recent deployments were a troubling violation of the peace accord. Egypt faces a serious crisis in the Sinai, where 16 border guards were killed on August 5 by a group of Islamists, who subsequently infiltrated Israeli territory and were killed by tank and helicopter fire.

In the wake of the attack on the army outpost, recently elected Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi dismissed his defence minister, replaced his spy chief and sacked top security and political officials in the Sinai.

On August 14, Egyptian security forces exchanged fire with militants in the peninsula and on August 18, militants wounded three policemen there in an ambush of their vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade.

The tribes of the Sinai, an area mainly populated by Bedouins, have long had strained relations with the central government, which they accuse of neglecting the development of the peninsula

The military campaign has seen the largest buildup of troops in the Sinai since Israel returned the territory under the 1979 peace treaty.

President Mursi, meanwhile, will visit the United States on September 23, making his first trip there since taking power in June, the presidential spokesman said on Wednesday. The United States was a close ally of Egypt under ousted President Hosni Mubarak and gives $1.3 billion in military aid a year to Egypt plus other assistance.

Long wary of Islamists, Washington opened formal talks with Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 as the group emerged as a major player in the political scene of the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Mursi in Egypt during a visit in July. “President Mursi will visit the United States on Sept. 23 after his visit to China,” presidential spokesman Yasser Ali told, referring to a visit to Beijing next week.

In July, US President Barack Obama invited Mursi to the United States in September during the UN General Assembly meetings, but no date was announced. — Agencies

Mursi is due to visit China on Aug. 27 and will then go to Iran to attend a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement on August 30. His first official visit was to Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s prime minister hass said he expects to reach an agreement by the end of the year with the International Monetary Fund on an aid package to help boost the country’s sagging economy.

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