NEW YORK (Jan. 27)
Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger said today that he was only “moderately optimistic” about the chances of getting disengagement talks underway between Israel and Syria. Speaking to newsmen before conferring for about an hour with United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim in the Waldorf Towers suite of Ambassador to the UN John Scali, Kissinger was reluctant to discuss a report that Israeli and Jordanian officials have already begun to discuss disengagement along the Jordan River.
(In Jerusalem, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement today denying a report which appeared in the New York Times that Israelis and Jordanians had begun such talks and that under consideration was an Israeli pullback of 13 kilometers with Jordan also demanding the ceding of Jericho. The statement declared that no meetings on disengagement or any other subject had taken place between Israel and Jordan.)
Kissinger praised what he termed the tremendous cooperation of the UN in connection with the Israeli-Egyptian disengagement agreement. Without the UN’s role, he said, the accord would never have been possible. Observers noted that Kissin- ger’s praise for the UN and his meeting with Waldheim was an effort to reinsert the world body into the Middle East peace negotiations. The UN had been overshadowed by Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy between Israel and Egypt in working out the accord.
Scali told newsmen that he was satisfied with the progress so far in solving the Mideast crisis but cautioned that there were serious problems ahead. These, he noted, included the disengagement talks between Syria and Israel and the continuing oil embargo “and its role in promoting or lessening the prospects for peace.” He described the Israeli-Syrian talks as “perhaps the most sensitive of all.”