Egypt rejects Israeli claims; No troop increase expected on Gaza border
Egypt rejected Israeli complaints about weapons smuggling into Gaza Strip on Wednesday and accused Israel of trying to distract attention from its building activities at Jewish settlements. After talks between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, an Egyptian spokesman said Israeli actions had undone the achievements of the peace conference held in Annapolis last month.
Barak arrived in Egypt on Wednesday to discuss Israeli allegations that Egypt was doing too little to prevent arms smuggling to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He had talks with Egyptian Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and then with Mubarak.
According to Reuters, Egyptian presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad said Israel's charges were "a smoke screen to shift attention from settlement construction and the follow-up on Annapolis". "We are exerting 100 percent effort but cannot guarantee 100 percent results. No state can totally seal off its border," he said.
Proposals to build new homes for Jews near Jerusalem "undermine the only achievement of the Annapolis meeting -- that is the launch of negotiations", Awad conveyed.
On his part, Barak said after the talks that no increase in Egyptian border troops is needed. According to the DPA, the Israeli minister said the level of Egyptian forces on the border with the Gaza Strip would remain the same.
Both countries are committed to overcoming disagreements owing to their strategic interests, Barak said. "Both countries are partners in the fight on terror," he noted.