WASHINGTON (Jul. 12)
President Carter said today that he has received a private message from Israeli Premier Menachem Begin that he will come to Washington next week with “an open mind and an ability to go to a possible peace conference with all items being negotiable.” According to Carter, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt also has privately expressed his willingness to go to Geneva without “prior conditions.”
Carter made the disclosures at a White House press conference this afternoon at which he said that “although I haven’t changed my position, I want to re-emphasize that we are not going to go to the different nations involved (in the Middle East conflict) and say this is an American plan you’ve got to accept as a pre-condition to going to Geneva.”
The President said that his own comments on the Middle East have been “deliberately general in nature and the ultimate results will have to be agreed to by the Arab and Israeli nations.” He said that he has “seen an inclination in the Middle East in recent days toward an alleviation of tension.”
He referred to private messages from Sadat assuring him that “he was going to make every effort to comply with the Sinai agreements” and in particular that excess Egyptian troops would be withdrawn from Sinai. Carter said that Sadat had authorized him to announced that Egypt “is returning with full military honors 19 Israeli bodies that had been left in Egypt.”
(The official Middle East News Agency reported from Cairo today that the remains of 19 Israeli soldiers killed in the Yom Kippur War were discovered during excavation work to widen the Suez Canal.)
VIEW ON PALESTINIAN ‘ENTITY’
The President appeared optimistic about peace prospects in the Middle East. “There is a general inclination by all parties for success,” he said.
Questioned about his statements concerning a Palestinian homeland, Carter replied: “My own preference is that a Palestinian entity, whatever form it might take and whatever area it might occupy, should be tied in with Jordan and not be independent. But I don’t have the authority nor the inclination to impose that preference on the parties that will negotiate.” Carter added, “We have never tried to define geographic boundaries for a so-called Palestinian entity.”
In previous statements on this issue, Carter had referred to a Palestinian homeland. His reference today to “a so-called Palestinian entity,” seemed to some here to be a softening of his previous formulation.