Kissinger’s Efforts Stymied by Syria

Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger will return to Washington tomorrow with or without a disengagement agreement signed by Israel and Syria, it was indicated here today. Kissinger flew to Damascus yesterday, spent six hours in conference with Syrian President Hafez Assad last night and met with him again for three hours this morning, according to State Department spokesman Robert Anderson.

Further meetings were to be held in the Syrian capital before Kissinger returns to Jerusalem tonight for a final round of talks with Israeli officials. Anderson said the Secretary would leave for Washington some time tomorrow. He did not say whether Kissinger would stop over in Cairo on his way home.

A disengagement accord still eluded Dr. Kissinger after four weeks of arduous personal diplomacy in the Middle East during which he shuttled 12 times between Jerusalem and Damascus. Israeli Information Minister Shimon Peres said that if no agreement is reached by tonight, Kissinger might leave some of his aides in the area to try to solve the outstanding issues and may invite Israeli and Syrian representatives to Washington for further talks.

Israeli officials seemed hopeful yesterday that disengagement agreement or interim agreement would be signed or at least initialed by both sides by this morning. The Israeli Cabinet, after a special Session yesterday, reportedly accepted compromises proposed by Kissinger on limited forces zones and the nature and functions of the United Nations presence.

But in Damascus, where Kissinger is trying to persuade the Syrians to accept the compromise, new obstacles emerged. An official statement issued by the Syrian government this morning said it refused even to discuss the question of Palestinian guerrillas in the framework of a disengagement pact. Israel’s acceptance of Kissinger’s compromise reportedly hinged on Syria’s agreement to curb the activities of terrorists operating from its territory against Israel.

ISRAELIS ACCEPT SEVERAL PROPOSALS

Kissinger spent four hours negotiating with Israeli officials yesterday. According to sources here, the Israelis accepted his proposal of two limited forces zones–one 10-12 kilometers in width in which only small forces of soldiers and light military equipment would be permitted and another, 25 kilometers away from the present lines, in which both sides would be allowed to place artillery. Israel reportedly agreed to a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) of 1500 soldiers, a compromise between its initial demand for a 3000-man UNEF contingent and Syrian insistence on only several hundred.

According to sources here, Kissinger’s proposals called for an exchange of wounded prisoners of war as soon as an agreement is initialed and an exchange of the rest of the POWs in the first stage of the disengagement timetable. Syria holds 68 Israeli POWs and Israel is holding nearly 400 Syrians.

(The White House said Saturday that President Nixon would visit the Middle East. Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler told reporters that while no precise plans have been made “the President at some point will visit the Middle East.” His comment left the impression that Nixon might go to the Middle East before his Moscow summit visit scheduled to begin June 14.)

(Meanwhile, reports attributed to “informed foreign diplomats” in Cairo said that the Soviet Union has resumed limited shipments of arms and spare parts to Egypt in an effort by both countries to improve strained relations. The shipments were said to be the first in six months. Reports today from Damascus said that Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko was in the Syrian capital and might meet with Kissinger. There was also a report that Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev will visit Cairo next month to meet with Sadat in an effort to heal Soviet-Egyptian ties.)

NEXT STORY