Egypt has asked Israel to postpone discussions over the deployment of troops and military equipment into Sinai until a later date, a senior Egyptian security official said Wednesday, according to the Ma'an Palestinian news agency.
"We are aware of Israeli claims and concerns, but we want to postpone the discussion due to the sensitive situation in which the Egyptian regime is currently in as it operates against Islamist terror organizations in Sinai," the Egyptian official said.
Egypt has been building up its military presence in the lawless Sinai Desert since Islamic terrorists there attacked an army post on Aug. 5 and killed 16 soldiers.
Israel first objected on Tuesday to the move by Egypt's new leaders to deploy tanks in the volatile border area, calling the action a violation of the landmark 1979 peace accord between the two nations.
Israel, itself a frequent target of Islamic extremists based in Sinai, has welcomed the crackdown. But officials say significant military moves by Egypt must be coordinated, giving Israel a veto of sorts over Egyptian security strategy.
As Israel continues to pressure Egypt to withdraw its tanks from Sinai, senior political sources in Jerusalem said on Wednesday that direct talks between Jerusalem and Cairo, as well as indirect talks between Israeli and U.S. officials, on the matter had become more frequent and vigorous.
The political sources said Jerusalem even sent a letter to Washington quoting promises made by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter that the U.S. would intervene any time a crisis arises between Israel and Egypt, following the signing of the peace treaty between the two countries.
However, officials in the political echelon have expressed doubt about the possibility that Egypt or the U.S. will act on the Egyptian tank deployment.
Under the peace accord, Egypt is allowed to have only lightly armed policemen in the zone along the border with Israel. Limited numbers of tanks are permitted only in a zone on the far western side of the peninsula, within 30 miles (50 kilometers) of the Suez Canal.