Washington (Oct. 13)
The State Department indicated today that it was returning to “quiet diplomacy” in its efforts to bring about an interim agreement between Israel and Egypt. A Department spokesman also insisted today that there was no change in the Middle East military balance. Robert J. McCloskey said that “No such judgment to my knowledge has been reached” as a consequence of the flight by two Soviet MIG-23 jets into Israel-controlled air space last Sunday. He admitted however that he could not say whether that view was shared by either side in the Middle East conflict.
McCloskey’s reference to “quiet diplomacy” indicated a departure from the spate of public statements, background briefings by officials, and remarks on Middle East by Secretary of State William P. Rogers before the United Nations General Assembly and elsewhere, which have characterized American diplomacy during the past three weeks. These public expressions, particularly Rogers’ Oct. 4 speech at the UN, greatly disturbed the Israelis. McCloskey said that Rogers’ meeting tomorrow with Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban, their second within a month, would conclude the Secretary’s “round at the ministerial level. “After tomorrow’s meeting, the dialogue, “insofar as the US is concerned.” will turn back to “governmental channels.”
By governmental channels McCloskey was understood to mean discussions between the diplomats of the parties concerned. He added that this course does not “anticipate more ministerial meetings or travel to capitals” by American officials “for the immediate future.” Referring to the MIG-23 flight, McCloskey said “We have been aware that additional aircraft have been into the Egyptian inventory.” He added that the “traditional pattern” is for the Soviets to operate equipment including aircraft in the first stage until at some point the operational role is transferred to the Egyptians. He said he could not confirm whether the Soviets have been training Egyptians to fly the MIG-23s.