JERUSALEM (Mar. 18)
Israeli negotiators plunged into a new round of talks with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger tonight amid deepening gloom that a serious impasse has been reached in efforts to achieve a second-stage Israeli-Egyptian agreement in Sinai. The mood was colored by President Anwar Sadat’s flat rejection of Israel’s demands for a formal non-belligerency accord only hours earlier at a press conference in Aswan just before Kissinger’s departure for Israel.
A “senior U.S. official” on Kissinger’s plane told reporters during the short flight to Tel Aviv, however, that the Secretary’s shuttle diplomacy mission was not yet deadlocked, that an accord could still be reached and the negotiations had not reached “the crunch point.” The official said that the situation was not yet ripe for Kissinger to introduce initiatives and ideas of his own. What both Israel and Egypt now needed, he said, was “to take stock of where they stand.”
Nevertheless, the feeling here was that a stalemate situation has occurred that could be changed only if Israel gives in further on certain of its points. Kissinger will fly to Saudi Arabia tomorrow for talks with King Faisal. The Israeli Cabinet is expected to convene in special session during his absence tomorrow morning to mull over the latest Egyptian “ideas and considerations” that Kissinger is presumably conveying to the Israeli negotiators in their talks here tonight.
KISSINGER-GROMYKO MEETING DOUBTFUL
Kissinger is expected back in Israel some time tomorrow and is due to return to Aswan on Thursday. Beyond that, his plans are unknown, officials said here. Meanwhile, reports emanating from Israeli sources that Kissinger would fly to Vienna over the weekend for a meeting on the Middle East situation with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, were described today as “doubtful” by a spokesman for the American Embassy in Vienna.
“Officially we have not heard a single word,” the spokesman said, adding, “We would have to know well in advance to make the necessary security preparations. Therefore, it is more than doubtful that such a meeting will take place.”
Earlier today, Kissinger told reporters in Aswan that there were still “several substantial areas of disagreement” between Egypt and Israel, “The gap has been narrowed but it remains to be seen whether it will be finally closed,” he said during an appearance with President Sadat. “There are some areas of agreement and several substantial areas of disagreement,” the Secretary said, adding that Sadat had given him “some additional considerations and ideas” to take back to Israel.
NON-BELLIGERENCY REMAINS STICKING POINT
Sadat told the reporters that it was “not feasible and is really absurd” to discuss a normalization of relations with Israel before there is an overall settlement of the Middle East conflict. He said there was ho point in discussing non-belligerency, “We shall not agree to end the state of belligerency as long as there are any foreign soldiers on our land,” Sadat declared. He declined to say whether Egypt would agree to demilitarize territory evacuated by Israel but said it was quite natural that a strengthened United Nations presence would be part of a second-stage disengagement agreement.
Officials here stressed that the non-belligerency issue is still the main sticking point of an agreement. The U.S. official told reporters on Kissinger’s plane that while some elements of non-belligerency might come to pass quietly even if they were not included in a signed document, the significant component parts would have to be written into the agreement itself.