Atherton Returning to Mideast to Help End Impasse in Israel-egypt Talks

The State Department announced today that Assistant Secretary of State Alfred L. Atherton will return to the Middle East this week in an effort to end the Israel-Egyptian negotiating impasse. Department spokes-man Tom Reston said that “Secretary of State Cyrus Vance has asked Ambassador Atherton to go to Egypt and Israel for further discussions on possible next moves in the negotiating process.”

Atherton has been designated by President Carter as Ambassador-at-Large on special assignment to the Middle East. His round of “shuttle diplomacy” between Jerusalem, Cairo and other Arab capitals was suspended last month.

Reston told reporters that “Atherton will go first to Cairo, around the end of the week and several days later plans to go to Israel. His present plan is to return to Washington the last week in April after the round of talks in these countries.” Reston added: “This is not a shuttle kind of trip. He (Atherton) is just going there to consult with both parties and it is not going to be a ping pong type of thing.”

NO COMMENT ON CABINET STATEMENT

He said the State Department had no comment on yesterday’s statement by the Israeli Cabinet that it recognized Security Council Resolution 242 as applying to negotiations between Israel and all of its neighbors. He said the statement was under study. He did not rule out that this subject or the pace of Israel’s withdrawal of its forces from south Lebanon would be included in the talks between Atherton and Israeli leaders.

“We expect this as well as other subjects relating to negotiations will come up during Ambassador Atherton’s visit to the area,” Reston said. He said the discussions would include “a general view of all the issues in moving the peace process forward.” He also said that Atherton would not visit any other countries in the region.

Reston told reporters that no plans have been made for U.S. leaders to meet with Israeli Premier Menachem Begin when he comes to the U.S. for celebrations of Israel’s 30th anniversary during the first week of May. He also said there was no scheduled trip to the U.S. by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in the near future.

(Vance met with Egyptian foreign Minister Mohammed Kaamel in Cairo tonight where the Secretary stopped briefly en route to London and Moscow from southern Africa. Reports from Cairo said the meeting would give Vance an opportunity to hear the latest Egyptian ideas on resuming the peace process with Israel.)

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