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Sisco Offers Defense of Rogers Plan

Joseph J. Sisco, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, offered a vigorous defense of the controversial Rogers Plan on a television interview taped at the UN in New York and broadcast here last night. Sisco referred to the Rogers plan and a number of other issues in response to questions by the interviewer. But his remarks indicated that the Rogers plan, first unveiled by Secretary of State William P. Rogers in Dec. 1969 and immediately opposed by Israel, has not been effectively shelved as many Israelis had hoped.

(Sisco’s office in Washington declined today to comment on the interview. An aide said that Sisco had not seen the televised interview and was awaiting the tapes. He said there might be a comment after the transcription is studied.)

The American diplomat stressed what he said were the three basic points of the plan that he said tended to be forgotten. These are the need to negotiate an arrangement for Sharm el-Sheikh, demilitarization of the Sinai and an agreement on the future of the Gaza Strip. The Rogers plan called for a Middle East settlement based on only minor boundary adjustments–in effect, Israel’s evacuation from virtually all of the Arab territories it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War–and cast doubt on Israel’s claims to East Jerusalem. Israel labeled the plan unacceptable. Since its enunciation it has been the most serious point of difference in US-Israeli relations.

RARELY MENTIONED IN RECENT MONTHS

Though the Rogers plan has never been officially renounced by the US, it has rarely been mentioned in recent months by administration leaders in Washington in statements on the Mideast. Rogers did not refer to it in his address to the UN General Assembly last month. Nor was it mentioned by President Nixon in his state of the world message to Congress this year.

Sisco stressed that on the three issues the US made no “substantive judgement.” They are to be negotiated, he said. The American diplomat intimated, however, that talk of an overall settlement was not practical at present because of the wide gulf between Israel and Egypt. He said the US regards an interim settlement for reopening the Suez Canal to be the only feasible step at this time. Sisco said there were no signs at present that Egypt was willing to enter into proximity talks with Israel.

He observed that the Jarring memorandum of Feb. 8, 1971 was still the bone of contention. The aide-memoire by Gunnar V. Jarring, the United Nations mediator in the Middle East, asked Egypt to make a commitment to peace and asked Israel to commit itself in advance to withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories. Israel rejected the memo.

PALESTINIANS MUST BE CONSIDERED

Sisco described an agreement between Israel and Egypt as the key to a Mideast peace settlement and said such an agreement would have to take priority over an arrangement between Israel and Jordan. He noted that the Palestinians would have to be taken into account in a final settlement and expressed the view that the majority of Palestinians did not side with the Black September, the terrorist group responsible for the Munich outrage last month. Sisco stressed that no major power was capable of enforcing a solution on Israel and the Arab states “today.” He said “each state must assume commitments towards the other and not to a third party.”

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