Rhodes Armistice Negotiations May Be Recessed or Postponed; Bunche?s Optimism Fades

The armistice negotiations now under way here between the Governments of Israel and Egypt may be postponed or recessed within the coming week, it was learned here over the week-end, following a statement last night by acting Palestine mediator Ralph J. Bunche that he was less optimistic about the outcome of the talks than he had been earlier in the week.

The negotiations, it was reported, have bogged down and during the past five days there has been little, if any, actual progress. Originally, the Israeli delegation demanded the withdrawal of all the Egyptian forces from Palestine, while the Egyptians in turn insisted on the withdrawal of Israeli forces to the October 14 lines. Later, the Israeli delegation indicated that it might be willing to discuss the possibility of recognition of Egyptian sovereignty over the coastal strip between Gaza and Rafah, and including both towns.

This strip is now held by Egyptian forces, but is militarily dominated by Israeli troops. As such/the strip could serve as a bargaining point, but the discussion baa never reached this point. The Egyptian delegation insisted on its original demand being accepted before it would discuss any other factors.

(Meanwhile, rumors of an early evacuation of the Egyptian brigade trapped at Faluja were denied in Tel Aviv today. An Israeli government spokesman declared that the Faluja garrison will not be released until an armistice is signed.)

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