Intense Diplomatic Activities on Mideast Continue

A week of intense diplomatic discussions here by the United States with Israel Egypt and Syria recessed early today with another round set to begin tomorrow in the Middle East itself, No official statements of tangible progress toward an understanding, let alone a settlement, came from any quarter but there were signs that all four nations were deeply involved in discussions that took on a tinge of optimism. After the second late night session between Israeli Premier Golda Meir and U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger at Blair House that broke up at 1:20 this morning, the Israeli Embassy press officer, Gad Ranon in a rare direct quotation, declared that the discussions were “friendly and constructive.”

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Zacharia Ismail, following his meeting with Kissinger Friday evening, returned to Damascus yesterday after inviting Kissinger to visit the Syrian capital to continue discussions. But in view of the Secretary’s set travel plans timetable, the State Department indicated that Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joseph J. Sisco would visit Damascus. Premier Meir, who has been here since Wednesday night; was to have returned to Israel last night but postponed her departure for a full day and is due to leave for Tel Aviv this evening. She delayed her departure reportedly at Kissinger’s request which probably originated with President Nixon who is at Key Biscayne, Florida. Kissinger has been in regular telephone contact with the President.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi, who arrived here last Monday, remained in Washington three days longer than he had planned. He departed for Cairo today to confer with President Anwar Sadat about this weekend’s talks and to prepare for Kissinger’s arrival in the Egyptian capital Tuesday. Kissinger himself and his top Middle East aides leave tomorrow for Rabat. Morocco, the first stop on his visit to four Arab countries. He will be in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia before going to Iran, Pakistan and China. Sisco will accompany Kissinger on his Middle East trip but will leave him in Pakistan to visit Kuwait, Jordan and Israel in that order. It was Indicated here today that he will probably stop in Damascus before going to Jerusalem, the first high level U.S. official to visit the Syrian capital since the 1967 Six-Day War.

The State Department itself steadfastly refused to characterize Kissinger’s weekend discussions in terms of substance. The Department said there was a “cross-current” of discussions, adding that they were “not quite in the proximity style” that had been broached to the parties by the U.S. on various occasions, starting two years ago. State Department officials pointed out that their idea of proximity talks would have been “more structured” and that on this occasion, Kissinger was engaged in a “solo performance” in seeking to obtain the views of all parties during the concurrent visits to Washington of officials of Israel, Egypt and Syria.

Premier Meir spent the last hours of her stay here at meetings at the Israeli Embassy with Ambassador Simcha Dinitz and Embassy officials and the advisors who accompanied her from Israel. A report in a Beirut newspaper today to the effect that a plan under discussion in Washington over the weekend called for an Israeli withdrawal from all of Sinai and part of the Golan Heights in return for Egyptian and Syrian recognition of Israel elicited no indications of credibility in diplomatic circles here.

Mrs. Meir breakfasted at Blair House Friday with 14 Senators to whom she indicated serious concern with the feelings of Israeli troops over the supplying of Egypt’s encircled Third Army and the failure of Egypt to agree to a prisoner of war exchange. Sen. Charles Percy (R.III.) told reporters after the meeting that Mrs. Meir had spoken at length about the Third Army in the cease-fire context. She pointed out, he said, that in her own talks with Israeli troops on the west bank of the Suez Canal the soldiers expressed resentment at the humanitarian treatment under UN auspices, with Israeli agreement, of the surrounded Egyptian forces, especially the officers corps and the Intransigence of the Egyptians and Syrians on the relief of Israeli POWs.

Mrs. Meir said she was informed that the first shipments of supplies to the Egyptians included candies and cigarettes for the officers instead of water and medicine to meet the needs of Egyptian soldiers. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.Mass.) said that Mrs. Meir emphasized Israel’s willingness to negotiate. Sen. Stuart Symington (D. Mo.) told newsmen that he felt it is up to the U.S. and the Soviet Union to help solve the Mideast issues.

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