JERUSALEM (Feb. 1)
Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization conferred with Syrian leaders in Damascus today apparently in a last-minute effort to save the Israeli-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission talks that are slated to resume tomorrow.
Albert Gant, the UNTSC spokesman, is also in Damascus on a similar mission. He reportedly will urge Syrian representatives on the Mixed Armistice Commission to adhere to the previously agreed-upon agenda. Syria’s insistence on departing from the limited purpose of the discussions threatens to disrupt the sessions.
Israel has made it clear that the talks must be confined to land cultivation and cultivation rights in the demilitarized zones on the Israeli-Syrian frontiers. That topic constitutes the sole item on the agenda of the ISMAC’s extraordinary session, summoned by United Nations Secretary-General U Thant in an effort to avert the eruption of large-scale warfare between Syria and Israel.
The Commission’s first meeting was held a week ago. At the second meeting of the Commission, on Sunday, Syria raised the question of sovereignty over the demilitarized zones among other issues which Israel considered extraneous. Israeli farmers in the area are the frequent target of sniper fire by Syrian border gunners.
Israel had expressed willingness to allow some Syrian farmers to enter the zones and work some plots, as long as Israel’s sovereignty over the areas is recognized. Syria contends, however, that her acquiescence in this proposal would amount to her recognition of Israel.