JERUSALEM (Apr. 30)
Foreign Minister Abba Eban called today for “vigorous, concrete” world reaction to the disclosure that Soviet pilots are flying aerial missions for Egypt. He warned that any miscalculation or misunderstanding of the Soviet intent could be “disastrous” and claimed that “the security of mankind” could depend on what course the United States will follow. Mr. Eban addressed a press conference here following an announcement by the government that it had undisputed evidence that Soviet pilots have been flying Egyptian MIG’s over central Egypt for the past two weeks, freeing Egyptian ground and air forces for offensive operations against Israel. Mr. Eban confirmed today that Premier Golda Meir had sent a personal message to President Nixon expressing Israel’s grave concern over the new situation.
He told the news conference that the matter has been taken up through diplomatic channels as well as “at the highest level,” a reference to Mrs. Meir’s message. He said the immediate U.S. reaction was important but was regarded here as an interim evaluation pending the shaping of more “concrete” policy. The White House disclosed yesterday that President Nixon had ordered an immediate and full study of intelligence reports of the role of Soviet pilots. Mr. Nixon is expected to refer to the latest Mideast development in his nationwide television address tonight on U.S. intervention in Cambodia. Mr. Eban said the Soviet Union, by intervening in Egypt while talking peace at the United Nations with the U.S., Britain, and France, had played “an international confidence trick” on the three Western powers.
MRS. MEIR TELLS NIXON RUSSIA’S LATEST INVOLVEMENT IN MIDEAST IS NOT LAST
According to government sources, Mrs. Meir said in her message to President Nixon that the latest development should not be considered the final step in Russia’s growing physical involvement in the Mideast. Speaking here yesterday, Mrs. Meir said “Since the Soviet pilots have been flying in Egyptian skies, Egypt is sure that its rear is defended, and it is no surprise that in the last few days the situation along the canal has been worse than it has been for a long time.” Mr. Eban said the Soviet activities represented an offensive strategy, not a defensive maneuver, as they free more Egyptian soldiers for duty in the canal zone and shoulder the burden of manning Egypt’s defenses. “Israel has not and will not ask for foreign soldiers to man installations in Israel,” Mr. Eban said, adding that she has renewed her requests for more arms but considers international political reaction an equally valid deterrent to the Russians. Asked if Israel’s bombing raids deep inside Egypt were not responsible for the introduction of Russian flyers, the Foreign Minister claimed that the latest development was a link in the chain of action and reaction traceable to President Nasser’s unilateral abrogation of the cease-fire a year ago.
Mr. Eban, referring to President Nixon’s “State of the World” message to Congress last February, in which he warned that the U.S. would view with gravity any Soviet attempt to gain preeminence in the Middle East, said he hoped that warning would now be translated into “concrete” terms. (State Department spokesman Robert J. McCloskey said in Washington yesterday that the U.S. had independent evidence to support the Israeli intelligence reports that Soviet pilots were flying Egyptian planes. He told a press briefing that the U.S. would discuss the presence of the pilots with the Soviet Union, although he did not say how and when. “We do regard this as a serious development, and one that is potentially dangerous,” Mr. McCloskey said. It was unlikely that the matter would be brought up is the bilateral talks that have been going on in Washington between Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin. The talks were suspended for Mr. Sisco’s recent Mideast “orientation tour” and Mr. Dobrynin has not yet returned from his own trip to Moscow.