NEW YORK (May. 10)
Joseph J. Sisco, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, told an Israeli publisher in a Washington interview last week that he welcomed “The Rumanian initiative as a move that could help promote negotiations” between Israel and Egypt. Sisco was referring to Premier Golda Meir’s visit to Rumania when he made that remark to Noah Mozes, publisher of the afternoon daily, Yedioth Aharonoth. Sisco also told Mozes that in his judgement, despite harsh Egyptian statements, Egypt has still not closed the door to the American mediation effort. During his 10-day visit to the US, Mozes also had a private conversation with Dr. Kurt Waldheim, Secretary General of the United Nations.
Mozes said that in a friendly but frank and serious session Sisco emphasized that although the US had no prior knowledge of the Rumanian initiative, the US viewed it as a possible helpful instrument towards peace. “Anything that could lead toward negotiation is welcome here,” Sisco said. It had been speculated that State Department officials might be wary of the effort of a Communist bloc nation, however independent of the Soviet Union, to take a mediating role–and further, that they might be unhappy about the prospect of the mediating lead being taken away from the Americans themselves. But Sisco, Mozes reported, insisted that he did not see the Rumanian move as “cutting across” any American role.
PROXIMITY TALKS IN MOTHBALLS
As for the American role, Sisco indicated that regardless of what has been said publicly by Egyptian leaders, “the doors have not been closed privately.” But he conceded that “very little is happening now” in Cairo in terms of discussions between US representative Joseph Greene and Egyptian officials on the American suggestion for close proximity talks toward an interim settlement. Sisco also reiterated that the American middle-man role “is largely in suspension” at least until after President Nixon’s trip to Moscow in two weeks.
Sisco termed the current American posture one of “watchful availability.” In response to questions from Mozes, he stressed his continued belief that “some partial, interim settlement would be the most plausible step” in the process toward peace.
ALL STEPS WELCOMED
Sisco seemed to be in an open mood, receptive to various ideas for engendering some movement: The Rumanian effort, even the trial balloon floated by Waldheim, for a Middle East peace conference. On this proposal, Mozes said, it was understood that the Americans would prefer any such conference to include only the regional parties directly involved–probably Israel, Egypt and Jordan at first–without involving the Security Council or the Big Four.
But Sisco’s relaxed mood also appeared to reflect his inability to take new action now, at least until after the Moscow summit, Mozes said. Sisco reportedly commented that he did not know what the Russians would bring up there, but of course they could make any number of proposals on the Middle East. Nevertheless, he reassured Mozes that he did not expect that any deal unfavorable to Israel would emanate from the summit.
Mozes said that Waldheim told him he has not given up hope to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute and reiterated that he was ready to take a personal initiative to bring about negotiations that would lead to a peace agreement. Waldheim also said that he would welcome help that any country could give to find a total or partial solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He specifically said that he would welcome an interim solution as was initiated by the US but that so far nothing came of it.