Panetta in Cairo to calm regional tensions
October 4, 2011 by UPI - United Press International, Inc.
Clashes erupted outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo in September after demonstrators tore down the Israeli flag.
The Israeli military in August launched a raid on Egyptian targets after militants crossed the border in the Sinai Peninsula, killing eight Israelis. Six Egyptian security personnel were killed in the raid, stoking anti-Israeli sentiments.
Panetta, after meeting with Israeli officials Monday, arrived Tuesday in Cairo to defuse tensions between the two neighbors, Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reports.
Panetta was said to be in the region to press both sides to address security concerns in the Sinai Peninsula. The August attack was allegedly carried out in coordination with a group calling itself al-Qaida in the Egyptian Sinai, though it was unclear if the group has working ties with al-Qaida central or Hamas.
A military court said it postponed the trial of 53 suspects arrested during the clashes outside the Israeli Embassy until Sunday, the Egyptian report adds. They face charges ranging from intimidation to vandalism.
Panetta is also pressing Cairo to release Ilan Grapel, a dual U.S.-Israeli national, arrested in Egypt in June on charges of spying for Israel.
"We have made our concerns known to Egypt about holding that individual and we would hope that ... they will take steps to release that individual," he was quoted by the Egyptian newspaper as saying.