WASHINGTON (Aug. 18)
A State Department official said today that “having taken the lead” in initiating a cease-fire in the Middle East, “the United States feels it has a role in seeing that the agreement is carried out.” State Department spokesman Robert J. McCloskey made the remark at a press briefing where he disclosed that “from time to time we are conducting high level reconnaissance flights to verify the situation in observance of the standstill” in the Suez Canal cease-fire zone. According to sources, the State Department is expected to issue a statement tomorrow or Thursday in response to Israel’s claims that the Egyptians have violated the cease-fire by placing Soviet SAM missiles in the 32-mile standstill zone since it went into effect Aug. 7. It was understood that the statement will take into account Israel Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s criticism of U.S. response to violation charges.
Israel’s Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin, is understood to have seen the State Department’s statement in advance. Mr. Rabin met for a half hour today with Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco and shortly afterwards boarded a plane for Israel. He is returning on home leave and is expected to be away from Washington for a week to 10 days. Mr. McCloskey said that the U.S. was conducting high level reconnaissance flights over the eastern bank of the Suez Canal and would not be opposed to similar flights by the Russians over the West Bank. He refused to elaborate on the statement despite persistent questioning by newsmen. Israel occupies the East Bank of the Canal and Russian flights over the West Bank have been going on for months. Some newsmen believe Mr. McCloskey was saying that the U.S. was maintaining surveillance of the Egyptian side of the canal without violating Egyptian air space.