U.S. Envoy Assures Ebon That Washington is Not Negotiating Territory with Russia

Foreign Minister Abba Eban has been assured by United States Ambassador Walworth Barbour that the U.S. is not conducting any negotiations with the Soviet Union over details of a territorial settlement in the Middle East, reliable quarters said today. Mr. Barbour reportedly met with Mr. Eban yesterday and told him that agreement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union is still far off although the Russians have shown a softer attitude toward American proposals than in the past.

Mr. Barbour’s assurances appeared to be confirmed from another source yesterday. An Israeli radio correspondent, Yigal Yossin, reported from Washington that the U.S. and Soviet Russia are not engaged in “drawing maps” at the current stage of their bilateral talks on the Mideast but are still discussing principles. The correspondent, who attributed his information to “a very highly placed source” whom he did not name, said the U.S. agreed with Israel’s contention that there is no immediate danger of all-out war because Israel has no intention of starting one and the Arabs lack the strength to do so. He said that the U.S. holds that there can be no Mideast agreement unless Israel is guaranteed free passage through the Suez Canal and that Israel cannot be expected to withdraw to new borders in exchange for “cloudy promises.”

(The Soviet Embassy in Washington took the unprecedented step yesterday of publicly criticizing a Washington Post story that Russia was apparently amenable to “minor” boundary adjustments in the Mideast and would not insist on Israeli evacuation of East Jerusalem. The story, by the Post’s United Nations correspondent Robert Estabrook, said that this Soviet position had emerged in the current round of talks between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin. The Embassy statement said the article was “based on inventions and falsifications and rudely distorts the position of the Soviet side in the course of the…exchanges of view, particularly on territorial questions.”

(Mr. Estabrook said in an article last Tuesday that Mr. Dobrynin “reportedly has suggested” to U.S. officials “that minor adjustments on Middle East boundaries can be negotiated if Israel first commits itself to withdrawal from captured Arab territories.” He added that “the mention of border adjustments is taken as an indication that the Syrian Golan Heights might be included in redrawn Israeli boundaries.” He wrote further that “Dobrynin’s failure to dwell on Jerusalem also is regarded as a sign that Moscow would not object strenuously to Israeli retention of the Arab city, provided Jordanian rights in the Holy Places were respected.”)

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