WASHINGTON (Mar. 11)
Undersecretary of State Joseph J. Sisco told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today that the task in the Middle East now is “to achieve something similar” on the Syrian-Israeli front to what was achieved on the Egyptian-Israeli front earlier this year. He said Israel would send a high level representative to Washington within two weeks and that Syria has agreed to do the same in the near future.
Referring to the same developments, State Department spokesman George Vest could not say when disengagement talks between Israel and Syria would get started here. Asked why the time was estimated at two weeks a week ago and is still estimated at two weeks, Vest said the opening of the talks was “naturally tied” to the formation of a new Israeli government.
NOT YET DISENGAGEMENT DISCUSSIONS
He said that Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban who is due here today and is scheduled to meet with Kissinger Thursday would review “the whole range of events of mutual interest” to Israel and the U.S. But this will not be a star of disengagement discussions, Vest said. He noted that the person who will represent Israel at the talks has not been designated so far. He said there was “no specific information when the Israeli group or individual or the Syrians will be coming as yet.” Vest added that the realities of local politics in those countries could not be ignored.
Asked if the disengagement process was delayed by recent political events in Israel, Vest replied that “No one is going to say if somebody didn’t come in two weeks that an extraordinary critical political event has occurred.” He would not comment on the cancelled meeting of Arab oil ministers in Cairo yesterday. He said the oil embargo picture remained exactly the same as it was and observed that the problem “was among themselves,” meaning the Arabs. Asked why Kissinger had intimated last Jan. that the oil embargo would be lifted in less than 40 days. Vest replied. “We have to have a Biblical view of 40 days and 40 nights.” He added that there was no point in trying to establish a hypothetical quid pro quo between the embargo and U.S. peace efforts.
Meanwhile it was learned that leaders of major national Jewish organizations are scheduled to meet with Kissinger late this afternoon. It was assumed that the meeting is to discuss Kissinger’s statement last Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee that he has been meeting regularly with Jewish leaders to “explain the U.S. policy in the Middle East and the degree of cooperation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to bring about a moderate evolution.”