WASHINGTON (Jul. 23)
United States officials said today that there was little substance to the Israeli position that bilateral and Four Power negotiations encouraged Arab violations of the United Nations cease-fire. These officials said they did not think the level of violence had ascended over a period of weeks that included the recent American-Soviet bilateral talks in Moscow. In the U.S. view military activity in the Mideast has reached a plateau of being “constant,” but it is not the official impression here that events are moving toward a climactic stage.
The bilateral talks were said to be at a point closer to “midstream” then near a “breakdown” or “breakthrough.” The 10 hours of talks of Joseph Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, with Soviet leaders in Moscow achieved “a bit of advance on some points.” But some fundamental differences remained.
Washington’s main concern now is not the daily violence but concentration on efforts to promote a settlement through UN envoy Gunnar V. Jarring. But regardless of whether there is a restoration of the Jarring mission, the superpower talks are vital and continue to be “an element of restraint.” Mr. Sisco discussed with the Russians the latest events and risks. Officials said that Washington hoped to balance the risks against the benefits of what may be achieved in moves toward peace. The objective was described as a common document in writing. The officials wanted to convey no implication that the Russians have changed their philosophy although they hinted at a slight progress.
The U.S. presented Moscow with counter-proposals to its suggested peace plan of June 17. The counter-proposals are now being studied by the Kremlin. Moscow and Washington agreed to continue bilateral talks as a “continuing process.” Mr. Sisco returned via Stockholm and gave Dr. Jarring a briefing on the Moscow talks. Mr. Sisco will go to New York this week to brief UN Secretary General U Thant before joining President Nixon on his world tour.
Mr. Sisco found Soviet leaders very serious, businesslike, and candid on the Middle East, according to officials. The Soviet attitude reflected the July 10 speech of Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko welcomed by Washington to a considerable degree. In Moscow Mr. Sisco came to agreement on some points but disagreed on others, officials said. It was agreed that terms of settlement be exchanged in a specific way. The two powers are seeking a common document for transmission through the Big Four to Dr. Jarring. Instead of trying for a final blueprint, which Washington feels only the Israelis and Arabs can agree upon. Washington is seeking to create a framework of basic principles for the parties directly involved to deal with through Dr. Jarring.
U.S. officials feel that instead of reacting to existence of the talks, new violence reflects the absence of a settlement. Mr. Sisco did not return from Moscow with a feeling that the Russians thought the Middle East was on the brink of a new war. Officials said that the U.S. expected the present situation along the cease-fire lines to continue for some time. But they believed both sides were interested in arriving at a settlement. The U.S. is convinced that both the Arabs and Russians want the major power talks to continue.
The question of arms limitation involving curtailment of shipments from the U.S. and Soviet Union to the Middle East came up in Mr. Sisco’s Moscow talks. U.S. officials disclosed that the Kremlin would require Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territory prior to such agreement on restricting the arms flow. The U.S. is in constant touch with both sides on the military developments in the Middle East, officials said. They declined to discuss whether there were indications of concessions by Israel on evacuation of occupied territory. It was noted that there is avoidance here of any mention of the Soviet military personnel in Egypt. The problem is seen as not Russian military support of the Arabs but scrupulous adherence to the cease-fire by the Arabs and Israelis.
Officials disclosed that Dr. Jarring has no plans to convene the parties at this time and is still awaiting the superpowers’ efforts. Mr. Sisco discussed U.S. views of the present Middle East situation with French leaders in Paris. The position of the Pompidou Government on resumption of arms supply to Israel was said to be basically the same as publicly stated by President Pompidou the day before Mr. Sisco visited Paris.
(The official Soviet news agency Tass reported from Moscow today that USSR has pledged support to Egypt and other Arab states “subjected to Israeli aggression.” The message was contained in a telegram sent to President Nasser marking the anniversary of the fall of the Egyptian monarch.)