Israel-syrian Talks Delayed for Week After Request by Damascus

The fourth meeting of the extraordinary session of the Israeli-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission, scheduled to have been held this morning at Kibbutz Mahanayim, in Israel, was postponed today for one week, at the request of the Syrian Government.

Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, chairman of the special ISMAC meetings convened to negotiate agreement on land cultivation and cultivation rights in the demilitarized zones in the frontier areas, announced the postponement “at the request of the Syrian delegation and with the concurrence of the Israeli delegation.”

At the conclusion of the Commission’s last session, a week ago, Gen. Bull abruptly adjourned that meeting because the Syrians had insisted on going beyond the fixed agenda with demands that Israel withdraw its military forces and dismantle its alleged fortification in the zones. Israel has consistently contended that it has full sovereignty over the demilitarized zones under the terms of its 1949 agreement with Syria.

SPECIAL COURIER NOTIFIES BULL THAT SYRIA IS ‘NOT READY YET’

Gen. Bull was informed by Syria only late last night that it was not yet ready to resume the talks with Israel, which had already taken up three meetings since they were begun on January 25. A special courier had come to no-man’s-land here, where UNTSO has its headquarters, to notify Gen. Bull of the Damascus request for a deferment of the meeting scheduled for 10:30 o’clock this morning. Gen. Bull immediately informed Moshe Sasson, Israel’s chief delegate to the ISMAC, who was, at that time, at Kibbutz Ayelet, near Mahanayim, ready to proceed to the site of the morning session. Mr. Sasson consulted the Foreign Ministry here, then notified Gen. Bull that Israel had agreed to the postponement.

Officially, Syria told Gen. Bull that “our side is not yet ready and needs more time to prepare for the session.” Political circles here believe that the Damascus decision to call for delay was the result of a serious rift on the Israeli issue within the Syrian Government’s ruling junta. One side is believed to insist that Syria should show at least some willingness to cooperate with the United Nations and take no definitive steps that would cause the ISMAC talks to collapse. Another faction presumably wants to push toward insistence on Syria’s anti-Israeli views, thus possibly forcing Israel to break off the talks.

Pointing to the latter attitude, as seen here, was an address broadcast last night by Syria’s President, Dr. Nour E. Atassi, who told a Damascus meeting that the Israeli problem can be solved “only through war.” In his speech, Dr. Atassi also pledged further support to the “Arab liberation movements,” saying that Syria would “not be the guardian of Israel’s borders.”

NEXT STORY