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Sisco Dismisses Fears That Mideast Conflict Jeopardizes U.S. Oil Supplies

Fears in the U.S. that the Arab-Israel conflict is jeopardizing future imports of Middle East oil and creating gasoline and fuel shortages were dismissed by the State Department today.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Joseph Sisco, addressing the State Department’s Foreign Policy Conference for Editors and Broadcasters, said that while there will be “flux” in the relations between the U.S. and Middle Eastern oil-producing countries, he “seriously doubted that the mutuality of interest between the producer and the consumer would in fact be jeopardized” by the Arab-Israeli dispute. He cautioned the approximately 600 American media leaders not to “overdraw the implications” of the Arab-Israeli conflict and current petroleum short ages.

Sisco, who is the government’s top specialist on the Middle East, commented that “it is not in the U.S. national interest to be overly reliant on any one area or source.” He forecast some future difficulties, however, but expressed the hope that “adjustments” between the producers and consumers of oil could be made. According to Sisco, “the U.S. has the resources to meet future needs, both for security and economic reasons including the balance of payments factor.”

Sisco reiterated the U.S. position that an interim accord between Israel and Egypt to reopen the Suez Canal was the best means to move toward an overall Middle East settlement. He upheld Israel’s refusal to commit itself to a total withdrawal from Sinai before entering negotiations with Egypt, a precondition insisted on by Cairo.

Sisco observed that the Israeli and Arab governments possess different views on the meaning of negotiations. “Our Arab friends unfortunately think of negotiations as capitulation,” he said. “To the Israelis, they are much more than a procedural device. To the Israelis, negotiations would mean that for the first time…the adversary is willing to sit down with them and really talk out the problems.”

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