WASHINGTON (Feb. 3)
Secretary of State William P. Rogers said today that “close proximity” talks between Israel and Egypt under United States auspices “are essential for progress” toward peace in the Middle East. He added that the US would favor a resumption of peace efforts by the Jarring mission “at the same time” if that would help bring about a settlement in the region.
Rogers addressed a press conference here following yesterday’s announcement by Israel that it was ready to participate in proximity talks with Egypt for an interim Suez agreement with the US serving as go-between. Rogers said he was “naturally pleased” by the Israeli announcement.
He volunteered his statement about the Jarring mission in response to questions as to when and where and in what way the US would approach the Egyptian government about joining proximity talks with Israel. “We strongly support the Jarring mission,” he said at the press conference that was devoted mainly to the situations in Northern Ireland and Indochina.
He said that “one problem” in the Middle East situation was that “there is no active exchange of ideas.” In that connection he pointed to progress in the SALT talks between the US and the Soviet Union to limit strategic arms and the agreement with Moscow on Berlin.
Rogers said the US “has not yet decided” how it would approach Egypt on close proximity talks. He said, however, that “we will present it in an appropriate way.” Referring to American approaches to Cairo he said, “We hope to do it in a way that will keep the door open,” implying that the US will proceed gently over a period of some time to avoid worsening relations with Egypt and to avoid exacerbating current social unrest within Egypt. Rogers reiterated that the US is ready to play a role in close proximity talks because both Israel and Egypt want it to do so.