WASHINGTON (Feb. 19)
A new round of diplomatic activity aimed at breaking the Middle East deadlock took shape over the week-end as Washington officialdom prepared for the meeting between Israeli Premier Golda Meir and President Nixon March 1. Meanwhile, the State Department confirmed yesterday that Hafez Ismail, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s national security advisor, will come here Thursday for talks with Nixon and Secretary of State William P. Rogers.
Ismail’s visit was arranged at the last minute, although diplomatic circles here say Cairo has been putting out feelers for high level contacts with the U.S. for some time. Rogers said at a press conference here last Thursday that there has been “lots of communications with Egypt” and that the U.S. would welcome visits by high-ranking Egyptians, but added that there was no American plan “at the moment” to welcome one. Cairo apparently took his remark as a signal that the time was opportune, the circles said.
Ismail, whose relationship to Sadat is equivalent to that of Dr. Henry Kissinger to Nixon, was in Moscow last week for meetings with Soviet leaders. He left Cairo yesterday for London where he is meeting today with Prime Minister Edward Heath and British Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home prior to going to Washington.
Some, observers in Washington said Ismail’s visit was an indication that Egypt now recognized that Washington is the focal point of any new moves to end the Middle East impasse, rather than Moscow. The U.S. is considered by Cairo to be the only power that can exert any leverage on Israel. Egypt, nevertheless, has apparently embarked on a new global diplomatic offensive.
U.S. TO AID NEGOTIATING PROCESS
Cairo announced that Foreign Minister Mohammed H. el-Zayyat will fly to Peking later this month for talks with Chinese leaders. Ismail’s visit to Moscow was the first by a top level Egyptian since Sadat ousted Soviet military personnel and advisors from Egypt last July. He reportedly met with Communist Party chief Leonid Brenev and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. He also reportedly met with United Nations Middle East mediator Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring who is the Swedish Ambassador to Moscow.
Rogers emphasized at his press conference that any new American initiative was intended to bring the parties into some sort of negotiating process but must not be taken as an attempt to impose any plan on the parties. “We have increased our activities in this regard recently and we intend to do even more in the weeks ahead,” he said.
Rogers said the U.S. did not discount the possibility that the first phase of negotiations could be between Israel and Jordan rather than Israel and Egypt. However, he said, “We are inclined to think it would be easier if some progress could be made in relations between Egypt and Israel first, or at least parallel with progress between Egypt and Jordan.”
Israeli and State Department officials are arranging a special meeting in New York between Rogers and Mrs. Meir before she ends her week-long visit to the U.S. Mrs. Meir is due in the U.S. Feb. 28. Rogers will be in Paris to attend the international conference on Vietnam. During her stay in Washington, she will be the President’s guest at Blair House which is the official residence for visiting heads of state. According to protocol, Mrs. Meir is a chief of government, not a head of state. The invitation to stay at Blair House is considered a special tribute to her by the President.