Last updated: October 19, 2011

Israel summons Cairo envoy over PM peace treaty remarks

Israel's foreign ministry on Friday summoned the Egyptian ambassador after statements by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, who said the peace treaty between the two states is "not sacred", Israeli website Ynet reported.

Foreign Ministry Director General Rafi Barak summoned Ambassador Yasser Reda to express Israel's "irritation over the recurrent calls from senior Egyptian officials over the need for modification to the peace treaty," Ynet reported. During the 30-minute interview, Barak told Reda that "from Israel's perspective, there are no intentions whatsoever to reopen the peace treaty and the step cannot be taken unilaterally."

The Egyptian foreign ministry confirmed that the Israeli foreign ministry had summoned the Cairo envoy.

It said the ministry "had demanded clarification over statements by some Egyptian officials regarding the peace treaty between both countries, and expressed hope of cooperation from the Egyptian side so their embassy in Cairo can return to work normally."

On Thursday, Sharaf said the 1979 peace deal with Israel "is not sacred" in an interview with Turkish television.

"The Camp David treaty is always open to discussion or for modification if that is beneficial for the region and for a just peace. The peace treaty is not something sacred and there can be changes made to it," the official MENA agency quoted Sharaf as saying.

The Egyptian foreign ministry stressed that "Egypt's respect for its international treaties and principles of international law and its commitment to the agreements it has signed."

Sharaf's statement came a week after protesters ransacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo, forcing the evacuation of staff and the departure of the ambassador.

The attack on Friday, in which crowds smashed through an external security wall, tossed embassy papers from balconies and tore down the Israeli flag, was the worst since Israel set up its mission in Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to minimise the repercussions of the embassy attack on bilateral ties.

"We are committed to preserving peace with Egypt, which is in the interest of Egypt and Israel," he said

Relations between Egypt and Israel, which have been bound by a peace treaty since 1979, have entered a period of turbulence since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak by a popular uprising in February.

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