WASHINGTON (Aug. 25)
The State Department disclosed today that bilateral contacts with the Soviet Union on the Middle East are continuing and that there had been demonstrations of “good faith” and “constructive work” on the Russian side. Spokesman Robert McCloskey made this known but warned that there was “still a distance to go.”
He was asked if the developing crisis required an urgent, full-scale resumption of contacts. He replied that such bilateral contacts were important and that he was certain they would ensue. But he was not in a position to say when this might occur.
While conceding that little had occurred since Joseph Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, left Moscow, Mr. McCloskey made a disclosure. He revealed that U.S. Ambassador Jacob Beam had continued contacts in Moscow since Mr. Sisco gave counter-proposals to the Kremlin on the Russian formula for a Mideast settlement. He indicated that the Russians had made some reply to the U.S. counter-proposals through the American Ambassador. It was expected that the bilateral talks would be resume in Washington, however, according to the spokesman’s comments.
Mr. McCloskey suggested that Moscow and Washington were doing whatever could be done to ease tensions resulting from the El Aksa Mosque fire, but the United States would oppose “anything extraordinary.” It was not clear from his remarks whether the United States and Soviet Union were cooperating to ease the tensions of the last few days. He was questioned about this.
Mr. McCloskey indicated that the Soviet Union might not have done everything it could have and that some gaps remained. It remained unclear whether this related to Moscow’s response to the mosque fire alone or to her general policies in the Middle East. The spokesman said he knew of no development related a reported French proposal for renewal of the Big Four mideast talks at the United Nations.