B'NOT YAACOV, Israel (Feb. 2)
The third meeting of the extraordinary session of the Israeli-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission, held today in a Syrian customs house a few miles from this Israeli frontier town, was brought to an abrupt halt this morning after talks lasting only one hour.
Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, who has been chairman of all three ISMAC meetings held thus far, summoned another meeting to be held “in a week’s time.” The first meeting — after an eighty-year hiatus during which ISMAC had not met at all — was held on the Syrian side on January 25, and the second was convened at Mahanayim, Israel, last Sunday. The next meeting is also to be held at Mahanayim.
The meeting today was adjourned by Gen. Bull after the chief of the Syrian delegation ignored an opening statement by the U.N. official, requesting both sides to adhere strictly to the single item officially on the agenda, concerning only land cultivation and cultivation rights in the demilitarized zones on the Israeli-Syrian frontiers. However, when Syria’s chief delegate insisted on going beyond the agenda, and Israel protested, Gen. Bull called the halt. Both Israel and Syria agreed at the meeting to continue their talks, as proposed by Gen. Bull.
ISRAEL PRAISES GEN. BULL FOR PATIENCE IN FACE OF SYRIAN ATTITUDE
Israeli sources expressed deep pessimism about the outcome of the talks, which had been summoned by U.N. Secretary-General U Thant, several weeks ago after Arab guerrilla incursions into Israel from Syrian bases raised border tensions to a dangerous level.
The Israelis pointed to the repeated Syrian attempts to raise issues outside the agreedon agenda. However, tribute was paid in Jerusalem to Gen. Bull’s impartial and energetic efforts to keep the Syrians to the agenda. The sources indicated fears that Syrian “obstinacy and ill-will” would prove to be too much even for Gen. Bull’s patient diplomacy.
It was felt in Jerusalem that if the Syrians did not alter their behavior at the ISMAC meetings dramatically, the entire U.N. effort would be doomed, despite Israel’s willingness to cooperate.
Informed sources in Jerusalem said today that heavy international pressure had been brought to bear on the Syrian regime to induce a more moderate Syrian attitude at the resumption of the talks. The reported pressure has come from foreign governments and from the United Nations Secretariat, as well as from Gen. Bull.
The UNTSO chief came to today’s meeting directly from Damascus, where he appealed to the highest echelons of the Syrian Government to avoid ISMAC statements that could torpedo the extraordinary session.