JERUSALEM (Aug. 18)
The cancellation of its projected boycott of Algeria by the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations was discussed by the Cabinet at its weekly meeting today at which the Foreign Minister was empowered to continue his efforts to obtain the release of the hijacked El Al airliner from Algeria by political means. The Government also indicated that it would request United Nations Secretary General U Thant to continue his efforts to effect the release of the plane and its 12 Israeli passengers and crew members.
The Cabinet session heard reports on the plane crisis from Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, Transport Minister Moshe Carmel and Gideon Rafael, Foreign Ministry director general, who participated in negotiations on the plane in Rome last week. The Prime Minister reported on political contacts, mainly with Mr. Thant. Mr. Carmel reported on contacts with the pilots federation and told the Cabinet that “certain promises” had been given to federation representatives by Algerian authorities but it was reported that the Transport Minister had no information on the nature of those promises. A Government spokesman said later that it was understood that contacts with the pilots’ federation were continuing and that the Government’s stand would be announced when further information was available.
Earlier today. Government sources criticized IFALPA for calling off its boycott while the “hard facts” remained that the hijacked airliner and its Israeli passengers and crewmen were still held by Algeria. The boycott was supposed to go into effect at midnight tonight. Consultations on the problem were held all day yesterday between Prime Minister Eshkol and other Cabinet ministers.
Cancellation of the boycott was announced in Algiers yesterday by a vice president of the pilots’ federation. Vitali Nicolaev, who arrived in Paris from the Algerian capital and strongly indicated that the release of the seven El Al crewmen and five passengers was was imminent. Mr. Nicolaev, who is an Air France pilot, declined to specify what assurances the Algerians had given in exchange for the cancellation beyond a quick conclusion of their “investigation” into the hijacking. He said his negotiations with the Algerian authorities covered only the “human element”, not disposition of the $6 million El Al Boeing 707 which Algeria has held since July 23, when it was hijacked.
Government sources said however that as long as a prize is kept by the hijackers, whether it was the plane or anything else, the Federation could not be considered as having discharged its duty toward air safety. The pilots’ group had stressed that its sole consideration in ordering the boycott was to discourage air hijacking in the interests of commercial aviation safety.
(At United Nations headquarters in New York Secretary General Thant met for an hour yesterday with James O’Grady, vice president of IFALPA. A spokesman refused to disclose the contents of their talks except to say that Mr. Thant had asked the Federation to make available to him whatever information might be helpful in securing release of the plane and the detainees.)
(The London Times reported in a dispatch from its correspondent Peter Hopkirk in Algeria yesterday that Capt. Jan Bartelski, president of IFALPA, and Capt. Nicolaev were received by the Algerian Foreign Minister and later driven to a secret site where the Israelis were being held to ascertain for themselves that they were well cared for. Mr. Hopkirk said the Algerians confided to the visiting pilots that they were under heavy pressure from the Arab states on the plane issue which, they said, accounted for the delays.)