President Nixon said this afternoon that Israel and Egypt have announced that in accordance with the decision of the Geneva conference their governments, with the assistance of the United States, have reached agreement on the disengagement and separation of their military forces. According to Nixon who appeared live on television from the White House press room at 3 p.m. Washington time, the announcement said the agreement would be signed by the chiefs of staff of Israel and Egypt at noon their time tomorrow at the Kilometer 101 check-point on the Suez-Cairo road.
President Nixon said in his statement that the agreement was being announced simultaneously in Jerusalem. Cairo and Washington. He did not mention Moscow and there was no explanation of why no announcement was forthcoming from the Soviet capital inasmuch as the USSR is a cosponsor with the U.S. of the Geneva conference and despite earlier reports that the announcement would be made simultaneously in the four capitals.
According to unofficial and unconfirmed reports in Jerusalem this, evening, released in Washington, the Israeli-Egyptian disengagement agreement calls for the following: An Israeli pullback to the Mitla and Gidi passes; Egypt to retain eight battalions–about 3000 men–and 30 tanks but no SAM missiles on the east bank of the Suez Canal; the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to occupy a six-mile corridor between the passes and the Suez Canal; Egypt to occupy the east bank up to the UNEF lines.
According to one report received in Washington the Egyptians will occupy a ten-mile strip east of the canal through the UN guarded buffer, zone. This would indicate that the Israeli forces would withdraw 16 miles east of the canal. Some observers in Washington noted that the disengagement accord is little more than an implementation of the six-point accord signed Nov. 11 between Israel and Egypt. Details of the new agreement are expected to be announced tomorrow when Israel and Egypt sign the pact.
DIFFICULTIES STILL LIE AHEAD
Nixon prefaced his announcement by saying that he had “welcome news to all Americans and people all over the world.” He hailed the troop disengagement agreement as “the first significant step toward a permanent peace in the Middle East.” He congratulated President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir for “the very constructive spirit” they had shown in reaching an agreement. Nixon added that he did not underestimate the difficulties which, lay ahead in settling differences between Israel and the Arabs.
He said the United States could be proud of its role in helping bring about the agreement between the two countries and singled out Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger for special praise. Nixon said the American role was to bring the parties together to achieve “a fair and just settlement so that everyone in the area will be able to live in peace and be able to be secure insofar as its defense is concerned.” Nixon described the Middle East as the area of the world where the potential for a Big Power confrontation was the greatest.
At a press conference in Jerusalem after the announcement was made in Israel, Egypt and Washington, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said “We hope it will mark a turning point out of the constant cycle of tension and wars and be recognized as a first initial but nevertheless important step on the road towards a permanent peace.” But Eban, like Nixon, declined to give any details of the agreement before its signing. He did, however, say that one of the elements of the agreement, namely, the limitation of forces, an American proposal, was accepted by both sides.
KISSINGER’S ROLE PRAISED
The Israeli Foreign Minister said that Kissinger had helped formulate proposals “which constitute in our government’s view a balanced agreement.” Eban expressed his government’s appreciation of Kissinger’s efforts and said that every stage had been a question of discussing Israeli and Egyptian proposals and suggestions and that at no stage was there an American plan. He termed Kissinger’s role “an exemplary exercise in international conciliation and we hope the results will be fruitful.” Eban told newsmen that “I don’t say all the details will be in the agreement but obviously we would not reach agreement unless we had reached accord.”
Deputy Premier Yigal Allon told the nation on a television interview tonight that the disengagement agreement contained “very good indeed– although perhaps not excellent conditions” for Israel which would save human lives, provide security from sudden attack and open the path to talks for an overall settlement. He said he was “very satisfied” with the terms of the agreement which did not provide either side with everything it had demanded, but at the same time served the interests of both sides.
Allon said he could not yet give detail or draw maps. But he assured the interviewer that the vital Mitla and Gidi mountain passes into Sinai proper would remain “in the rear” of the new Israeli positions. He said that neither side had imposed its demands on the other nor had Kissinger imposed his own views on either Egypt or Israel. Kissinger’s role had been “indispensable.” and he had shown himself a consummate diplomat.’ His efforts, and the agreement attained, faithfully served President Nixon’s broad aim of ending the era of confrontation and beginning a new era of consultation,” Allon said.
Asked if the settlement was not in fact a unilateral Israeli withdrawal, Allon, conceded that in bald geographical terms it was. But he went on to explain that the withdrawal in fact achieved the aims which Israel had sought when it originally crossed the Suez Canal and encircled the Egyptian Third Army. Now that these aims were to be achieved–or at least a start made on their achievement–Israel could lift the encirclement, Allon said. There is no indication of a time-table for implementing the accord. (By David Landau, Jerusalem, Joseph Polakoff, Washington.)