JERUSALEM (Jan. 22)
A special meeting of the dormant Israel-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission, proposed by United Nations Secretary-General U Thant last week to cool off explosively mounting border tension, will be held Wednesday, Israeli officials said today. There will be two sessions at the B’not Yaacov bridge which connects Syria and Israel on the northern border. The first session will be held on the Syrian side of the bridge, and the second on the Israeli side.
U.N. observers were busy over the weekend making the necessary technical arrangements for the sessions, which will be chaired by Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, chief of staff of the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization. The meeting will be the first informal gathering of the MAC in the past eight years, and the first official meeting in the past 12 years.
Mr. Thant made his unexpected intervention last week during a peak of a series of warnings by Israeli officials that there was a limit to Israel’s patience, and Syrian statements that almost daily sabotage attacks against Israel from Syrian territory were one of the “rights of the Palestinian people.”
WELL-DEFINED AGENDA MAY RESULT IN INFORMAL NEGOTIATIONS
Informed sources said that Syria, Israel and UNTSO had agreed on a well-defined agenda, covering only disputes between Syria and Israel over cultivation in the demilitarized zones on the border. No votes will be taken, indicating that the talks will constitute an informal Syrian-Israel negotiation session under U.N. auspices, rather than a regular MAC meeting.
The agenda will be based largely on the so-called Von Horn line of 1961, in which the then UNTSO chief of staff outlined cultivation limits between the two countries. Syrian border gunners regularly shoot at Israeli farmers cultivating in the area. Israel’s position was reported to be a willingness to allow Syrian farmers to enter the zones and work some plots as long as full Israeli-sovereignty over the areas are recognized. Syria has refused on grounds that this would amount to recognition of Israel.
Israeli participants reportedly hope that the MAC meetings will work out a rational demarcation of plot cultivation to eliminate the constant friction on the issue. This, Israeli circles suggested, could bring about a lessening of border tension on that issue at least. The meetings apparently will not deal with Israel’s complaint about Syrian support of Arab guerrilla raids into Israel from Syrian staging bases.
Meanwhile, Israeli security forces were seeking to use maximum diplomacy and patience to avoid renewed incidents caused by entry of Syrian shepherds and farmers seeking to enter the zones for grazing and cultivation. Several such attempts took place yesterday near Almagor and Tel Katzir, sites of violent Syrian attacks in recent weeks.
Israeli officials reported today that an anti-vehicle mine, apparently planted by saboteurs from Syria, was found and dismantled on a patrol track near the Syrian border, Friday. The track had been used the previous night indicating the device was planted during the night. Israel filed a complaint with the Mixed Armistice Commission.