Although 34 years have passed since the signing of the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, Egyptians still reject the peace agreement that was signed by former President Anwar Sadat and then sponsored by his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. Thus, the slightest security accident in the Sinai Peninsula, even if Israel has nothing to do with it, provokes serious discussion in Egypt of amending the agreement that is preventing it from securing its borders.
In response to the deadly attack on the border guards in Rafah, President Mohammed Morsi pledged to “impose complete control over the Sinai.” Hours after the president’s statement, warplanes roamed the skies of the Sinai border for the first time since the signing of the peace agreement. In addition, armored vehicles were deployed in the Sinai, which raised questions as to whether Morsi intents to amend the agreement so that Egypt can secure the Sinai Peninsula, which constitutes one sixth of Egypt’s total area.
Egyptian official sources told Al-Hayat that Egyptian authorities will launch negotiations with Israel in the upcoming days in order to reach an understanding regarding increasing Egyptian forces along the border. “The time has come to change the peace agreement to allow the deployment of Egyptian armed forces in the Sinai,” said the Egyptian authorities.
Under the current agreement, the Sinai is divided into three zones. The first is Zone A, where up to 22,000 Egyptian soldiers are deployed under the supervision of three officers — of Egyptian, Israeli and US nationalities — to ensure that the number of Egyptian soldiers and weapons corresponds to the amount agreed upon. Zone B includes only police officers, while Zone C, which is adjacent to the Egyptian-Israeli border, is comprised of only border guards.
These troops are armed with light weapons: automatic rifles for soldiers, and pistols for officers. Along with the border guards, multinational forces, especially from the US, are present in Zone C. As per the agreement’s terms, Egyptian military aircraft are banned from flying over Zone A, which is located only a few meters from the Israeli border. Moreover, in accordance with the agreement, Egypt is banned from establishing a military airport or seaport in the Sinai or along its coasts.
The former minister of affairs of the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council, Mohamed Attia, said that “despite its appalling nature, the latest incident represents a good opportunity to change the Camp David Accords.” He noted that “both Cairo and Tel Aviv are keen to eliminate sources of terrorism in the Sinai.” He also demanded that Morsi seriously address the matter with Israel so as to ensure that Egypt is capable of securing its border. This would be accomplished by deploying its armed forces, both by land and by air, across the Sinai.
Attia noted that according to international law, in the event of reasonable motives and legitimate justification, any state that is signatory to an agreement is entitled to demand its amendment. Hence, Attia expects Israel to agree to the modification of the agreement as soon as the Egyptian government makes its request.
Just as they united to condemn the latest incident, Egyptians have also joined together in demanding that the peace agreement be amended. Egypt's former foreign minister, Amr Moussa, stressed that “currently, there is no such thing as the Camp David Accords. However, there is a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, governed by mutual respect and commitment. This treaty is subject to modification, especially with regard to the security situation in the Sinai.”
Moreover, former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi said that “the Egyptian army has the right to enter the Sinai with all its forces.” He also called for “the immediate amendment of the Camp David Accords,” urging Morsi to “make necessary modifications regarding the security terms of the agreement, and to ensure strategic protection for the Sinai.”
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