WASHINGTON (Jul. 5)
The United States said today that it looks forward to a meeting between the Israeli and Egyptian foreign ministers in London later this month with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to reopen the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations that were broken off by President Anwar Sadat last January.
State Department spokesman Hodding Carter said that the peace plan proposed by Israeli Premier Menachem Begin last December and the one by Sadat made public in Cairo today would “provide the basis” of “face-to-face negotiations between the parties.”
He said the “U.S. will continue to be a facilitator” and “where necessary bridge” the gaps where it may be helpful. “If it came to an impasse, we might help to find a common avenue, “Carter said, appearing to set aside the possibility that the U.S. would advance any proposals of its own.
Carter, in response to questions, also indicated that a joint Israeli-Egyptian “declaration of principles” for which Sadat and President Carter were pressing until recently, has become a dead issue now that both countries have their proposals on the table.
Asked if the London talks would be to narrow the gaps between the Israeli and Egyptian proposals or to arrange for procedures on negotiations, Carter replied, “We hope that at the London meeting, both positions will be probed in direct talks and out of the process in London will come renewed momentum for peace in the Middle East.”
Carter indicated that the United Nations will not be represented at the London meeting which will be held after the close of the Western economic summit talks in Bonn July 17. He said London was selected as the venue for the meeting because it was agreeable to all parties.
INFORMAL BASIS FOR AGENDA
The State Department spokesman emphasized repeatedly that the two proposals–by Begin and Sadat–would “provide the basis” for “face-to-face negotiations between the parties.” He observed, “These two plans, taken together, would in effect be the negotiating framework. It is an informal way of preparing an agenda,” he said. He noted that the U.S. is “not going to stand on any positions per se. We believe we have the basis for negotiations in these two plans.”
With respect to a “declaration of principles,” Carter indicated it was no longer a factor, observing that “we now have two positions–we have the tools–the basis for negotiations are in them. That, in itself, will provide substantial” bases for discussion.
Asked if the London meeting might result in a declaration of principles, Carter said he was hesitant to forecast what would ensue. “If the two parties put forward ideas and can come to same agreed points, then you have the basis for more negotiations,” he said.
He noted that President Carter had called the plan proposed by Begin last December “a fair basis” for negotiations but he would not characterize Egypt’s six-point proposal announced today which, among other things, calls for Israel’s withdrawal from “the West Bank, including Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip,” abolition of the Israeli military government with Egypt taking over Gaza and Jordan the West Bank and the “Palestinian people” determining “their own future” within five years. Begin’s plan called for local self-rule for the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza and continued Israeli military control of those territories.
WALDHEIM SKEPTICAL ABOUT LONDON CONFAB
In Geneva today, UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim told UN correspondents that he was “skeptical” that the tripartite London meeting between Israel, Egypt and the U.S. would yield results. He said he favored a preparatory conference of all parties concerned in the Middle East leading to resumption of the Geneva conference.
Asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to comment on Waldheim’s remarks, Carter said his statement about the London meeting was his response. When a reporter noted that the Israelis will not decide formally to participate in the London meeting until its Cabinet meets Sunday, Carter said “we certainly hope” the London meeting will take place.