WASHINGTON (Jul. 27)
Joseph J. Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, will arrive in Israel tomorrow for talks with Israeli officials, State Department sources said today. He will be accompanied by Alfred R. Atherton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. Tight security precautions surround the departure of the two State Department officials. There was no indication of when or from where they would leave on their trip to Israel. Officials explained that precautions were in order in view of the recent forced landing of a British plane in Libya with two prominent Sudanese diplomats aboard and the mysterious explosion of an Iraqi plane in Saudi Arabia. Officials declined to comment on the subjects that Sisco will take up with the Israelis in Jerusalem save to say that they were “not the kind of subjects you can usefully hurry in the discussion process.” They said Sisco and Atherton are expected to be in Israel from three to five days. (Israeli officials announced in Jerusalem today that Sisco would arrive tomorrow afternoon and would stay in Israel until the end of next week. He is scheduled to meet Friday with Premier Golda Meir.)
Officials here did not indicate that Sisco would not visit any other country on this trip. Most circles here believe the subjects on Sisco’s agenda include negotiations for re-opening the Suez Canal, Israel’s requests for more U.S. arms aid and proposals for possible presentation to the United Nations General Assembly this fall for an over-all settlement of the Mideast conflict. The Sisco visit is seen here as an attempt to break the impasse over an interim arrangement to re-open the Suez Canal. It comes at a time when Israelis are worried over the heavy flow of Soviet weapons into Egypt and warnings by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that he will not continue to observe the cease-fire much longer. Cairo insists that a Suez Canal arrangement must be a prelude to complete Israeli withdrawal from Sinai and that Egyptian troops re-occupy areas evacuated by Israeli forces under such an arrangement. Israel is standing pat on its terms which, having been approved by the Knesset, are not likely to be altered.
One firm stipulation is that no Egyptian military personnel be allowed to cross the waterway in the wake of an Israeli pull-back. The extent of the pull-back is also a matter of dispute between Israel and Egypt. Some sources believe Sisco’s mission is to extract greater flexibility from the Israelis. Some observers believe that no decision on the sale of more Phantom jets to Israel will be made before Sisco returns to Washington and Israel’s military needs are “re-assessed.”