Washington (Oct. 28)
A State Department spokesman indicated today that the United States put great store on Yugoslavia President Tito’s close ties with Cairo to assist in bringing about an interim Suez agreement between Israel and Egypt. Tito arrived here yesterday on a state visit and met with President Nixon this morning. State Department spokesman Charles Bray pointed out at today’s news briefing that the Yugoslavian leader comes from a recent visit to Cairo. He said we “will be anxious to discuss with him his impressions and those parts of his conversations with Egyptian leaders which he will convey to us.”
Bray added that the Middle East situation was a subject in which Tito has taken a deep interest in recent years. He referred to remarks by Secretary of State William P. Rogers on an interview taped here Oct. 22 and broadcast on Yugoslavian television in which Rogers expressed the hope that Tito will continue to play a role in the coming months in the Middle East.
ROGERS: AGREEMENT POSSIBLE
Rogers also said in that interview that “We do think there is some possibility of an interim agreement and we feel that President Tito can play a very important role in helping the parties in that connection.” It was not made clear by Rogers how Tito could help the parties when Yugoslavia has no diplomatic relations with Israel. Rogers, in the interview, credited Tito with “really helping to bring about the climate” that led to Egypt’s acceptance of the American peace initiative and cease-fire of August, 1970. He was referring to a Tito meeting with the late President Gamel Abdel Nasser in Ethiopia.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency pointed out last month that Tito’s visit to Washington would have major implications for the Middle East because of his close connections in Cairo. Bray would not say today whether Tito was carrying a message to Nixon from President Sadat of Egypt or whether he was on a specific mission related to the Middle East conflict. He refused to comment on press reports from Moscow that Egypt has rejected the proposals for an interim agreement stated by Rogers in his Oct. 4 speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
Asked if the US was pessimistic about the chances of getting both sides to reach some sort of agreement. Bray replied in the negative but conceded that anyone who has “read recent speeches” would find it difficult to be overly optimistic. The reference was obviously to Premier Golda Meir’s Knesset speech Tuesday in which she accused the US of surrendering to the Egyptian position on an interim agreement. Bray observed, however, that there have been no contacts with the Israelis either here or in Jerusalem in recent days so that it would be wrong to conclude that the US was pessimistic. He said there would be opportunities to speak with the Israelis privately.