Special Knesset Meeting Friday to Hear Announcement of Disengagement Talks Progress

The Government has asked the Knesset to convene in special session Friday to hear an announcement on disengagement talks with Syria. The request for a Knesset session on a day when the parliament does not ordinarily meet was seen as an indication that Israeli leaders are confident that disengagement talks will have reached an advanced stage by Friday.

Information Minister Shimon Peres said, after a three hour meeting this morning of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and the American and Israeli negotiating teams, that he was not sure Premier Golda Meir would be able to announce the completion of disengagement talks by Friday. Kissinger indicated that while there was substantial agreement by Israel and Syria on the disengagement lines, a wide range of other issues remained to be settled. He mentioned buffer zones, limited forces zones, the UN presence and the POW exchange.

Kissinger flew to Damascus this afternoon for further talks with Syrian President Hafez Assad and was expected back in Jerusalem late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

PACE OF NEGOTIATIONS SLOWS DOWN

The pace of disengagement negotiations has slowed down noticeably as the two sides plowed through a morass of details. The limited forces zone, the size and functions of the UN presence and surveillance once an accord has been reached emerged today as the major problems still to be overcome. Neither Israeli, US. nor Syrian sources have disclosed any details. It is clear, however, that Syria is balking at Israel’s demands for a very substantial limited forces zones on both sides of the proposed UN buffer zone.

Syria is unwilling to follow the pattern of Israeli-Egyptian disengagement in Sinai, claiming that the circumstances and the terrain are quite different. Syria is also apparently unwilling to drastically limit its freedom of military movement in the environs of Damascus which according to Israel should be part of the limited forces area.

The UN role is complicated by Israel’s desire to provide as much protection as possible for its border settlements and villages against future terrorist incursions across the disengagement lines. Israel is pressing for a clause in the separation of forces agreement that would have each side renounce hostilities by armies or para-military groups. But words alone are no assurance and in light of the recent events at Maalot and Kiryat Shemona, Israeli anxieties are high.

ISRAEL SEEKING UN PRESENCE

One highly placed source pointed out that the UN presence in the Gaza Strip from 1967-67 substantially reduced terrorist infiltration. The source implied that Israel is seeking a UN presence of considerable size along the new disengagement line, a far cry from Syria’s insistence on nothing more than an expanded UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNYSO).

The issue of surveillance is not being mentioned by either side. It is understood, however, that Syria objects to overflights by plane or satellite as an objective method of detecting violations. The Syrian objections are believed to be instigated by the Russians. Israel for its part refuses to rely solely on aerial photographs taken from its side of the line or on inspection by UN patrols.

Public opposition to Kissinger over concessions he allegedly extracted from Israel appeared to be fading today. Protests against Israeli pull-backs on the Golan Heights drew a handful of people today compared to several thousand who demonstrated outside the Knesset building at the beginning of the week.

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