B'NOT YAACOV, Israel (Jan. 25)
Israel and Syria agreed today — at the first meeting of the Israeli-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission in eight years — to “respect peace and observe the cease-fire” between the two governments, it was announced here by a spokesman for the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization.
The announcement was made following the conclusion here of the opening session of the extraordinary meeting of the ISMAC which will be followed by a second session on Sunday. At today’s session, Israel proposed that Syria join in pledging “fidelity” to non-aggression provisions of the armistice agreement signed by the two countries in 1949.
Today’s session lasted five hours and 45 minutes and was held at a Syrian customs house near the international bridge between this Israeli town and Syria. Sunday’s session will be held on the Israeli side of the bridge. A resolution was proposed at today’s session by Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, chief of staff of the United Nations Supervision Organization, and was accepted by both sides. The statement reaffirms the adherence of Israel and Syria “to the principles of non-aggression as affirmed by the United Nations Charter and the General Armistice Agreement.”
At 10:25 o’clock this morning, five minutes before the meeting was scheduled to open, an Israeli army jeep, flying a green pennant announcing in English and Hebrew: “Israel Delegation to the Mixed Armistice Commission,” approached from the Israeli side to the Syrian border check-point. Riding in the jeep was Israeli Lt. Col. Zvi Span. Behind the jeep were two Israeli station wagons carrying Israel’s ISMAC delegation and officials of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
Syrian officers awaited the Israeli group and ordered the lifting of 10 black-white, striped barriers. The Israelis proceeded to the Syrian customs house, accompanied by United Nations observers and Syrian police outriders. Inside the customs house, the meeting was opened by Gen. Bull, promptly at 10:30 a.m. Without a break, and with only light refreshments served during the period, the meeting lasted until 4:15 p.m.
ISRAEL DELEGATE TERMS THE MEETING ‘AN IMPORTANT ACHIEVEMENT’
Israel’s delegation was headed by Moshe Sasson, director of the Foreign Ministry’s armistice affairs division. It included Ambassador Yosef Tekoah, a former armistice affairs chief, who is now the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general, and Israeli army officers who are Israel’s members of the ISMAC.
Noting that eight years had passed since the Mixed Armistice Commission had met “informally,” Mr. Sasson called the meeting “an important achievement.” He referred to the sole, formal item on the agenda, concerning the cultivation of farm lands on the Israeli-Syrian border, and said: “Today, we hope for a frank and sincere exchange of views in order to agree on practical arrangements on problems of cultivation, which have been a source of recent tensions.”
Mr. Sasson stressed that Israel’s readiness to negotiate a practical arrangement on problems of cultivation is without prejudice to Israel’s stated views on the broader political and juridicial issues, which are not under discussion here. “Similarly, we enter these talks without prejudice to our views on the status of the demilitarized zone and the foundations of the ISMAC in that zone,” he said.
The remarks made at the meeting by the leader of the Syrian delegation were not made public. A U.N. spokesman told newsmen gathered here that there would be no progress report on the negotiations “as long as they are talking inside.” An Israeli spokesman described today’s opening session of ISMAC as “cordial and realistic.”