GENEVA (Dec. 27)
The Israel-Egyptian disengagement talks, the most explosive and concrete issue at the peace conference, are under way. The two delegations will hold their second meeting tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. at the United Nations headquarters under the chairmanship of the commander of the UN Middle East Emergency Force, Lt. Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo. At their first meeting yesterday, there were no hand shakes and no salutes between the four officers in spite of the fact that two of them, Israeli Col. Dov Sion and Egyptian Col. Ahmed Fouad Howeidy, are old acquaintances as veterans of the Kilometer 101 negotiations.
The only note of cordiality was injected by the head of the Israeli military delegation Maj-Gen. Mordechai Gur who, at the start of yesterday’s session, congratulated the chairman and the chief Egyptian negotiator for their for respective promotions. Gen. Siilasvuo was promoted to Lt. Gen., and the Egyptian negotiator, Tahal el Magdoub, to Maj. Gen., apparently in order not to be outranked by his Israeli counterpart. Gur concluded his congratulations by stressing half jokingly that all the original participants at the talks “have done rather well”and expressed the hope that the talks will do the same.
Neither of the delegations is prepared to reveal any details by the substance of the talks, They are not even prepared to say whether the Geneva negotiations are continuation of the Kilometer 101 talks or whether a new start has been made. The wording of the communique released by a UN spokesman after the meeting, speaking of “principles of disengagement,”and the fact that none of the delegations carried or produced maps during the talk, led the observers to believe that the Egyptians made demands of a semi-political nature such as large-scale Israeli withdrawals, referring to Security Council Resolution 242,
PRESENCE OF SUPERPOWERS FELT
The Egyptians had been pressing for the talks to start at the earliest. Yesterday’s meeting was held only a few hours after the arrival of the Israeli delegation. The fact that the Egyptians agreed to postpone the next meeting until tomorrow indicated that the Egyptians realized that their far-reaching demands made it imperative for the Israeli delegation to ask for new instructions from Jerusalem.
Yesterday’s negotiations opened with a speech read by the head of the Egyptian delegation. El Magdoub later told Egyptian newsmen that the contents of his opening address had been personally approved by President Anwar Sadat, The Geneva military consultations are expected to continue for several weeks and no concrete decisions are expected until after the Israeli elections. The positions of the two delegations are currently widely divergent and no major break through is expected until after the formation of a new Israeli government.
But if nothing major happens even then, the two co-sponsors–the U.S. and USSR–might make their influence felt at the next plenary session to bring a settlement about. The major difference between Geneva and Kilometer 101 is that here the two superpowers are leaning over the shoulders of the military delegates. Even though they are not attending the sessions, their presence is nonetheless felt.