JERUSALEM (Oct. 12)
Egypt’s rejection of any negotiations with Israel, direct or indirect, is considered in Israeli circles to represent the final and authoritative word on that subject by the Cairo Government. The semi-official Cairo newspaper Al Ahram, which is known to speak for President Gamal Abdel Nasser, stated unequivocally Friday that “Egypt does not believe there is any possibility of holding direct or indirect negotiations with Israel — not through the Rhodes formula or any other formula.”
The Al Ahram statement sharply contradicted Egypt’s official spokesman, Dr. Esmet Abdel Meguid, who said last Wednesday that Egypt would not object to participating in indirect negotiations with Israel along the lines of the Rhodes armistice talks in 1949 “provided this is not construed as direct negotiations.” Israel insists that Israeli and Egyptian delegates met face-to-face during the final stages of the Rhodes talks under the aegis of the then acting UN mediator, Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, Egypt denies that there were any direct contacts at Rhodes.
But the argument was rendered academic, according to Israeli sources, by the Al Ahram statement that undercut Dr. Meguid’s offer. A similar reported hint by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad in New York Sept. 24 that Egypt might participate in so-called Rhodes formula talks was described by Al Ahram as “deliberate gross distortion aimed at undermining the position of the United Arab Republic.”
The Al Ahram statement also downgraded the mission of United Nations peace envoy, Gunnar V. Jarring, who was mentioned as the person most likely to bring Israelis and Arabs to a neutral site for Rhodes-style talks. According to Al Ahram, Dr. Jarring’s mission is confined to working out a time table for implementation of the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 resolution calling for Israel’s withdrawal from occupied Arab territory and Arab recognition of Israel’s right to exist within secure, recognized boundaries, among other things. The Arabs have insisted that Israeli withdrawal is a precondition to implementing other elements of the resolution.
The newspaper Haaretz said today that Israeli circles viewed the seemingly flexible statements by Mr. Riad and Dr. Meguid as no more than an Egyptian attempt to torpedo Israel’s stand in the United States during and after Premier Golda Meir’s meeting with American leaders. These meetings are over now, the statements have served their purpose, and Egypt is reverting to its basic intransigent stand, Haaretz said.
Mrs. Golda Meir, Israel’s Premier, told Israel on a radio broadcast yesterday that the Government would be willing to open “Rhodes – style” negotiations but indicated that Israel would regard them as direct talks.