ON THE SYRIAN-ISRAELI SRONTISR (Apr. 5)
The armistice talks between Israe1 and Syria opened this afternoon.
The Israeli delegates, it was understood, were prepared to press for the Syrians’ withdrawal from Mishmar Hayarden, on the frontier, and for the return of war prisoners. The Syrians will probably try to strengthen their position after the military coup d’etat last week, and seek to come to terms with the Israelis.
After each delegation had held preliminary consultations with United Nations representatives, their members joined for combined discussions in a “neutral” tent. Henri Vigier, chief civilian aide to Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, U.N. acting mediator, was elected chairman of the meeting.
The Israeli delegation was headed by Lt. Col. Mordecai, who was accompanied by the same Foreign Ministry and military aides as attended the armistice talks with the Lebanon. The Syrian mission was led by Col. Fawzi Selo, assisted by two officers and a legal aid.
When the Syrians presented their credentials, the Israelis objected that the Syrians’ papers were signed by Brig. Husni Zaim as chief of staff of the Syrian Army, and made the point that the talks were to be held on behalf of the two governments and not under military jurisdiction. The Israeli delegation argued that it was unprepared to express recognition of the new Damascus regime by virtue of its negotiations with the Syrian armistice negotiators.
The Syrians accepted this qualification and the Jewish delegates then agreed to open the talks. The Damascus representatives also promised to give Vigier a clear picture of the present Syrian Government and of the factors leading to the coup d’etat.
After preliminary discussions lasting two hours, the talks were adjourned until Friday, to be held on the same frontier site. Gen. William E. Riley, military aide to Dr. Bunche, and Vigier then returned to Damascus and were to leave later for Beirut to attend the sessions of the U.N. Conciliation Commission.