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Eban Believes Disengagement with Syria Will Begin This Month; Confirms He Will Visit Washington in M

Foreign Minister Abba Eban believes that disengagement negotiations with Syria will begin some time this month. He said in an interview taped for West German television over the weekend that he based that prediction on the “assumption that Syria will not want to have a completely isolated position on this prisoner question,” meaning that he thought Damascus would soon accede to Israel’s condition that it produce a POW list before negotiations can begin.

Eban also confirmed reports that he planned to visit Washington in March “to discuss (with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger) the next stage of the Geneva conference.” He said his planned visit was based on the assumption that disengagement agreements with Syria as well as with Egypt would be in effect by then.

(Middle East developments gathered further momentum today as Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko was reported due in Washington from Havana to meet with President Nixon this week and discuss with Kissinger the reopening of the suspended Geneva peace parley. King Hussein of Jordan, in London today, reportedly will visit Washington next Friday to discuss Jordan-Israel disengagement talks.)

Eban said on his TV interview that while Egypt would prefer that Syria reached some kind of arrangement with Israel before Egypt proceeded to the next phase of peace negotiations at Geneva, he was “not certain that President (Anwar) Sadat will subordinate Egyptian interests to what could be the caprice of Syria….If Egypt were to take that view, then Egyptian sovereignty would have moved from Cairo to Damascus,” Eban said.

He said that both Egypt and Israel were carrying out their disengagement commitments properly, despite allegations in the Cairo press of Israeli violations. Eban said that Israel viewed the disengagement agreement with Egypt as a “teat case concerning the thesis and doctrine of Egypt’s intentions….If the agreement works well this will have a profound psychological effect and therefore a profound political effect: It will create much greater credibility about the possibility and validity of signed agreements,” Eban said.

He added, however, that “On the other hand, if the agreement does not work well the contrary will be the case.” Eban said that Kissinger was “convinced that the Egyptian President is resolved to cooperate in breaking away from the cycle of tension and war.”

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