WASHINGTON (Feb. 2)
The State Department today welcomed Israel’s “positive decision” to enter proximity talks with Egypt on a possible interim agreement to reopen the Suez Canal with the US serving in what the State Department has described as a “constructive role.” The statement by Department spokesman Charles Bray came several hours after the Israeli government announced in Jerusalem that it would participate in such talks.
Bray refused to say whether there has been any written assurances by the US to Israel that the US will not propose its own plans in proximity talks between Israel and Egypt. His prepared statement said, “We welcome Israel’s decision to enter talks in proximity for a possible interim Suez agreement. For our part we remain available to help in this process if it is the desire of the parties concerned. We hope the opportunity for diplomacy that it provides will be taken in the interests of both sides and in the interests of stability in the area.”
NO INDICATION AS TO WHEN EGYPT WILL RESPOND
Bray declined to enter into any discussion as to when the US would approach the Egyptian government as to its views on entering the talks nor would he say where they might be held if Egypt were to agree. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat arrived in Moscow this morning, according to an announcement by Tass, the official Soviet News Agency. He is presumably seeking more Soviet arms to prepare Egyptian forces for a military showdown with Israel.
Sadat announced last week that his government has broken off all contacts with the US on negotiations with Israel, and stated on many occasions in recent weeks that he has made an irrevocable decision to go to war with Israel.
Bray turned down requests by newsmen at this morning’s press briefing for information on whether the US approach to Egypt would be made after Sadat returns from Moscow. Bray said, however, that Joseph Nathaniel Greene, the new head of the US interests section in Cairo, would probably take up his post there in mid-Feb. It was not clear whether the US would make its approaches to the Egyptian government after Greene’s arrival in Cairo. Bray concluded the news briefing by observing that “basically what’s happened is that Israel has made a positive decision.”
Israel’s Ambassador to Washington, Yitzhak Rabin and the chief Egyptian diplomatic representative here, Dr. Ashraf Ghorbal, visited the State Department today. The two diplomats met separately with Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joseph J, Sisco. The meetings were at the request of Rabin and Ghorbal. The State Department refused to reveal the nature of the meetings.