WASHINGTON (Jul. 2)
Secretary of State William P. Rogers said at a press conference today that there had been “some advances” in Soviet proposals for a Middle East settlement and indicated that the bilateral talks between the United States and the Soviet Union that have been held here might be shifted to Moscow “at least for a short period of time.”
Mr. Rogers said that the “advances” had been made on “key issues” but declined to specify which they were. In reply to questions he pointed out that the status of Jerusalem and Israeli troop withdrawal were two of a number of key issues under discussion. The area of the so-called Russian “advances” were spelled out later by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Joseph Sisco, who has been engaged in the bilateral talks with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin, and who may be sent to Moscow to continue them.
Mr. Rogers said that the bilateral talks might exercise a “moderating influence” or at least contain the situation and keep it from getting out of hand. He said the deteriorating situation in the Middle East “lends urgency to the talks.” The U.S.-Soviet conversations have been going on concurrently with the Four Power Mideast talks conducted by the U.S., Soviet, British and French ambassadors to the United Nations in New York. The Four Power talks were recessed indefinitely yesterday. Mr. Rogers said the U.S. would continue nevertheless to consult with the other major powers while its talks with the Soviet Union would become “particularly active.” He said that despite the Soviet “advances” some “very substantial difficulties remain.”
Mr. Sisco later listed the Russian “advances” as Moscow’s acceptance of the idea of a contractual agreement between Israel and the Arab states and a package accord in which all elements would be implemented simultaneously, including Israel’s right to exist and freedom of passage for Israeli ships through the Straits of Tiran. Mr. Sisco said that the Soviet Union was still insisting on Israeli troop withdrawal from all Arab territory including the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula, but withdrawal could be part of a package deal rather than a precondition. Mr. Sisco said that Russia was proposing terms on the Arab refugees that were unacceptable to Israel. The Russian position on the Straits of Tiran which Washington saw as acceptable was believed to involve the return of UN forces to the Sharm el Sheikh strong point.
The Assistant Secretary of State said the U.S. envisaged a role for the UN’s special Mideast envoy. Ambassador Gunnar I. Jarring, whereby he would decide at what point the Arabs and Israelis would come face to face to sign the final agreement worked out by Washington and Moscow. It was envisioned, he said, that the Israelis and Arabs might occupy different rooms at the same hotel and that Dr. Jarring would bring them together at the opportune moment.