WASHINGTON (Dec. 27)
The State Department reacted cautiously but with optimism today to the outcome of the Ismailia summit meeting between Israeli Premier Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. Department spokesman Tom Reston told reporters, “We are still in the process of receiving and assessing the reports on the meetings Sunday and Monday.”
He said that the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Samuel Lewis, met with Begin in Jerusalem early today while his counterpart in Cairo, Ambassador Hermann Eilts, met with Sadat.
(In Jerusalem, Lewis told reporters that the Ismailia summit meeting was constructive and set the stage for serious, detailed negotiations to begin shortly between Israel and Egypt. His optimism was echoed by Israeli diplomats and officials returning from Cairo. The envoy said he would convey Begin’s account of the summit to Carter.)
NEED TO MAINTAIN PERSPECTIVE
Reston read a statement to newsmen saying: “It seems to us important at this point to maintain perspective on the meetings which have taken place. It has been our objective, working with the Middle Eastern parties, to establish a process of negotiations which could lead to a comprehensive peace.
“As 1977 ends, there are now direct negotiations dealing with the principles that would cover a comprehensive settlement and other sensitive and procedural matters that would be part of an overall settlement. We are pleased that progress has been made at the recent meetings and that concrete steps have been agreed on for continuation of the substantive discussions.”
Reston stressed, “We have always recognized that the beginning of negotiations, while a crucial step, will not by itself resolve all the difficult problems. That is now the work which lies ahead. We continue to support the objective of a comprehensive settlement that is also the objective of President Sadat and Premier Begin.”
Replying to a reporter’s question, Reston said “This is not going to be an instant peace overnight. We are pleased that some progress was made and some concrete steps taken.” He said, in his statement, that “establishing the negotiating framework for a comprehensive settlement will be one of the important items on the agenda in the weeks ahead.
Asked if President Carter will meet with President Hafez Assad of Syria during his upcoming visit to several Middle Eastern countries, Reston said, “As President Carter said, he would be happy to meet with Assad if it could be worked out. At this time there are no plans for this meeting. “He added, “We are in continuing touch with the Syrians.”
CONDEMNS KILLING OF PALESTINIAN
Reston was asked to comment on yesterday’s assassination of Hamdi Kadi, a Palestinian official on the West Bank employed by the Israeli military government. The Palestine Liberation Organization has claimed responsibility for the murder. The State Department spokesman said, “We have seen reports that the PLO has taken responsibility for that particular action. I cannot confirm that for you but obviously we condemn the violence.” He said the U.S. had “no independent information” that the PLO claim is “correct.”
Kadi was killed while on his way to work. The 40-year-old official, who was in charge of education in Ramallah, was shot from a passing car which quickly sped away. An Israeli military government spokesman said Kadi was killed for political reasons as a result of his cooperation with Israeli authorities.