Cairo Says It Would Hold Indirect Peace Talks with Israel Through an Intermediary

The Egyptian Government said today that it would be willing to enter into peace negotiations with Israel through an intermediary as it did in 1949 when an armistice agreement was reached on the Mediterranean island of Rhodes.

The Government’s new official spokesman, Dr. Esmat Abdel-Meguid, told reporters in Cairo that the so-called “Rhodes formula” could be used as a means for reaching a settlement. But he emphasized that the “Rhodes formula” has never been “and cannot be considered under any circumstances as direct talks.” He said that “it would be acceptable to us if it was not constructed as direct negotiations.”

The “Rhodes formula” derives its name from the form that the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations took in the Hotel des Roses on Rhodes in 1949 under the mediation of Dr. Ralph Bunche, the then UN representative who later won a Nobel Peace Prize for his success in obtaining an armistice ending Israel’s War of Independence.

Both the Arabs and Israelis were housed in the hotel with Dr. Bunche. Egypt claims that all negotiations were carried on indirectly through him and that there were never direct contacts with the Israelis. The Israelis, on the other hand, while admitting that Dr. Bunche on many occasions shuttled between the rooms of the two delegations, insist that there were several direct contacts with their adversaries. Both parties were together in the same room on several occasions according to UN documents under Dr. Bunche’s name.

Dr. Abdel-Medguid said that it was up to Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring, UN Secretary-General’s special representative, “to go ahead.” The Egyptian Government, he declared. “would welcome a renewal of his contacts with the parties” involved.

The Israelis, while having indicated that indirect negotiations through Dr. Jarring, acceptable at the start, must ultimately give way to direct negotiations leading to peace and a settlement of all outstanding issues. Mahmoud Riad, the Egyptian foreign minister, recently indicated at the UN that Egypt would be willing to carry on indirect talks. He said at the time — and Egyptian Government statements backed him up — that direct talks were out of the question.

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