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Israel publishes alleged Egyptian olive branch

Israel claims to have received a letter from Egypt's Islamist president offering cooperation in the Mideast peace process. If authentic, it could ease fears that the two countries' longstanding peace treaty is in danger.

The office of Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday published a letter allegedly from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, stating his commitment to peace among all nations in the Middle East.

The letter supposedly came as a response to a message sent by Peres to Morsi, which offered good wishes for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"I am looking forward to exerting our best efforts to get the Middle East peace process back to its right track in order to achieve security and stability for all peoples in the region, including (the) Israel people," Morsi's ostensible letter read.

But Morsi's spokesman called the letter a fake, alleging that it had been manufactured by the Israeli press.

"The letter that the media reported to have been sent from President Morsi to Israel was fake," presidential spokesman Yasser Ali told the Reuters news agency. "President Morsi has not sent anything to Israel."

Peres' office has maintained the authenticity of the document, claiming that it was conveyed to them by way of the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv. Unnamed Israeli sources quoted by Reuters and the Associated Press said denials from Cairo were to be expected.

"It was received by the Egyptian ambassador and handed over to (Peres' office)," an unnamed official from Peres' office told Reuters. "The denial was to be expected, given the letter's high publicity in Israeli and Egyptian media."

Uncertainty over peace treaty

Egypt is one of only two Arab nations that has signed a peace treaty with Israel, the other being Jordan. Deposed former president Hosni Mubarak, a staunch pro-western figure once backed by the US, guaranteed that the treaty stayed in place during his three decades in power.

Former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat originally made peace with Israel in 1979. He was assassinated by Islamist fundamentalists in 1981, leading to Mubarak's rise to power.

The ouster of Mubarak by a popular uprising in February 2011 has thrown Egypt's future geopolitical orientation in to question. Since the Muslim Brotherhood won parliamentary and presidential elections, Israel has expressed concern that the Islamist party could seek to re-negotiate the peace treaty.

Although Morsi has said he will respect all of Egypt's international obligations, members of the Muslim Brotherhood have called the peace treaty with Israel into question.

slk/jm (AP, Reuters)