WASHINGTON (May. 24)
The State Department is holding fast to its policy of “quiet diplomacy” in the Middle East. Department spokesman Charles Bray parried questions about progress toward an interim Suez settlement at today’s press briefing. He refused to comment on the impending visit to Cairo of Soviet President Nikolai V. Podgorny. At one point he told newsmen. “Let me not get into the Middle East.” The official silence indicated to some observers that there may be serious movement at this time toward an interim settlement. Though Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban characterized President Anwar Sadat’s latest speech as “negative and extreme.” Israel, according to Bray, is prepared to continue negotiations toward an agreement that would reopen the Suez Canal. Bray gave no hint as to what may have transpired at yesterday’s meeting between Eban and U.S. Ambassador Walworth Barbour in Tel Aviv or Israel’s Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin’s meeting here with Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco. He said the Sisco-Rabin talk was within the context of the continuing series of discussions on the Middle East. Asked if the U.S. was “discouraged” by the slow pace of negotiations, he replied, “We have yet to be discourage,” Observers here said the State Department’s “quiet diplomacy” reflected caution not to undercut the position of Sadat at a time when he has succeeded in crushing a coup aimed against him by the pro-Moscow faction in Cairo.