TEL AVIV (Sep. 20)
Foreign Minister Yigal Allon said today he will discuss with United States officials this week both Egyptian violations of the Sinai agreement and oil drillings by an American firm in the Israeli-controlled part of the Suez Gulf.
Speaking to reporters before his departure from Ben Gurion Airport to attend the United Nations General Assembly which opens tomorrow in New York, Allon said that the Egyptians have violated the one-year-old Sinai agreement because they have continued their economic and propaganda campaigns against Israel, He said the U.S. as the mediator for the agreement is responsible for its implementation.
On the drilling in the gulf by Amoco, an American oil company under contract with Egypt. Allon said Israel is firm in its belief that it controls the eastern half of the Gulf of Suez just as it does the adjacent part of the Sinai. He said anyone wishing to drill there must receive Israel’s consent. He said consent will be based on what Israel gets in return. However, he refused to answer further questions, noting that the drilling has stopped pending negotiations between the U.S. and Israel.
RABIN, PERES DIFFER ON OIL ISSUE
Differences between Premier Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres arose at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting over how to conduct talks about the delicate oil drilling Issue. The exchange occurred after Allon reported on the breakdown of talks in Washington last week between U.S. and Israeli officials. He said, however, that an immediate crisis was averted.
Rabin asked the Cabinet to endorse-Allon’s report and to authorize the government to continue handling the matter as it has done to date. But Peres declared that the issue should be discussed directly between Israel and Egypt in the presence of American officials rather than between Israel and the U.S. alone. He said Israel must strive to avoid the impression that it was at loggerheads with the U.S. When Rabin challenged Peres to present his views as a formal proposal, the Defense Minister demurred and the Cabinet unanimously endorsed the Foreign Minister’s report.
The divergence of views between the Premier and his defense chief, not uncommon of late, reflected the sensitivity of the oil drilling issue which has become a source of friction between Israel and the U.S. It also portended a possible crisis of unity in the Labor Party as it begins preparations for next year’s elections.
U.S. PLEDGES TO DISCONTINUE DRILLING
The issue of oil rights in the Gulf of Suez arose when Amoco, an American oil company under contract to the Egyptian government, began prospecting in the eastern sector of the Gulf of Suez. Israel claims that under the 1975 interim accord with Egypt, she controls those waters. Israeli naval units cut the moorings of an American oil rig several weeks ago.
Talks were held subsequently between Rabin and U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon who apparently reached some sort of agreement in principle. The talks were to have shifted to Washington last week involving Undersecretary of State Philip Habib, Assistant Secretary of State Alfred Atherton and Ephraim Evron, an official of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The talks did not materialize for reasons that were not made public.
Allon told the Cabinet yesterday that further Israeli-U.S. consultations would be held and that the Americans pledged not to continue their drilling activities east of the Gulf of Suez demarcation line pending their outcome. Amoco, he said, had claimed that its franchise from the Egyptian government was about to expire. But this proved not to be the case, and future talks will be held in a more relaxed atmosphere, he said.