CAIRO (Dec. 21)
Sources associated with both the Israeli and Egyptian negotiating teams here indicated today that the surprise visit of Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman for meetings with Egyptian War Minister Mohammed Gamassy yesterday and today near Alexandria means that substantive talks on basic issues of territory and security in Sinai are underway. Weizman returned to Israel this afternoon. (See related story.)
According to some sources, these talks are intended to prepare the ground for a joint declaration by President Anwar Sadat and Premier Menachem Begin when they meet at Ismailia Sunday. They are, in fact, expected to announce the principles of an Israeli-Egyptian settlement in Sinai. That would ensure that the Sadat-Begin summit meeting ends on a high note.
The Cairo conference is expected to be raised to the foreign ministers level immediately afterwards to work out details of the territorial-security aspects of a settlement as well as the “nature of peace” clauses. The fourth session of the Cairo conference due to convene this morning was cancelled. Eliahu Ben-Elissar, chief of the Israeli delegation, went to Ismailia to meet with Weizman, the Israeli delegation spokesman announced.
The official Middle East News Agency reported today that Weizman met with President Sadat at his Ismailia retreat at midnight last night following a day of talks with Gamassy. He and Gamassy were to continue their talks today.
WIDE GAP STILL EXISTS
Meanwhile, high level Egyptian sources indicated today that a wide gap still exists between Israel and Egypt on the issue of Israeli evacuation of Sinai. The sources said that Egypt would not tolerate the presence of a single Israeli soldier in Sinai after a settlement is signed. One source close to Sadat was reported to have remarked privately that any Israeli need to maintain on air or naval garrison at Sharm el-Sheikh would “disappear” the moment a settlement is achieved.
The source said that the hard-line Arab states would quickly fall in line behind Egypt so that Israel would have no cause to fear the possibility of a new blockade of the strategic Straits of Tiran. The source also referred to Yamit and El Arish in northern Sinai as places Israel would have to vacate under an agreement.