Leon Panetta, Mohamed Morsi in Cairo
Leon Panetta, Mohamed Morsi in CairoReuters

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has written his first letter to his Israeli counterpart, responding to one sent by President Shimon Peres.

The letter maintained a cordial tone similar to that of Peres, thanking the Israeli president for his Ramadan greetings.

Morsi then pointedly said that he is looking forward to Egypt helping to get the peace process “back to its right track” – a blunt reminder the Muslim Brotherhood has been advocating an aggressive plan to end the years-long final status stalemate between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"I take this opportunity to reiterate that I am looking forward to exerting our best efforts to getting the Middle East Peace Process back to its right track in order to achieve security and stability for peoples of the region, including the Israeli people,” he wrote.

Both Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wrote to Morsi following his election last month, congratulating him and underscoring the importance of maintaining the peace accord with Israel signed in 1979.

Morsi, who said in a speech that he would support the Palestinian Authority in its drive to achieve statehood, also promised to honor international treaties – which includes the 1979 peace treaty signed with Israel.

It's a delicate balancing act, given that much of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood party that brought him into the presidency is vehemently opposed to maintaining that agreement. But the United States has been adamant about linking its own aid to Egypt with Cairo's willingness to maintain its peace with Israel – a strong incentive difficult for Morsi to ignore.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Cairo just hours after Morsi's letter was opened in Jerusalem. The two men met at the presidential palace in Cairo together with Egypt's top general, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, in an effort to balance security concerns with the country's somewhat shaky transition to democracy.