JERUSALEM (Jul. 13)
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman made a surprise trip to Salzburg for talks today with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and the Egyptian War Minister, Mohammed Ghani Gamassy. The trip was viewed here as a hedge against the failure of next week’s foreign ministers’ meeting in London.
Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan implied as much when he told a news conference, after Weizman’s departure, that the Salzburg meeting was but one of the channels of negotiations between Israel and Egypt and he fully supported it.
Dayan will be in London July 18-19 for talks with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Kaamel and U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance on ways to resume the Israeli-Egyptian peace process. Neither country has displayed much optimism over the outcome of the London meeting and both were eager to open new channels of contact should failure in London threaten to end the peace process, observers here said.
Weizman arrived in Salzburg in an Israel Air Force plane this afternoon accompanied by aides and went directly to the lakeside hotel where Sadat has been vacationing. Officials in Salzburg said Gamassy greeted Weizman at the hotel and that Foreign Minister Kaamel would be joining them. The Israeli defense chief told reporters he had “nothing to declare….Let me see the President (Sadat) first.” Asked how long he would be in Austria, he said his plans are “very flexible. Maybe I’ll stay, maybe I’ll go.”
SEES SOME MERIT IN PEACE PLAN
Dayan said today that the Salzburg meeting would not interfere with his mission to London next week. He said there was nothing wrong in holding negotiations through various channels as long as they are conducted by a government which exercises a unified policy. He said the talks in Salzburg could only be helpful in preparing for the London meeting.
Dayan surprised reporters when he remarked that the Egyptian peace plan, which the Israeli Cabinet categorically rejected Sunday, was not totally at variance with Israel’s peace plan rejected by Egypt. “If I read the Egyptian plan correctly, there are several meeting points between their plan and our plan,” Dayan said. He would not specify what those “meeting points” were. He said, however, that the Egyptians are not ready for a separate peace with Israel. “We asked and the answer was no,” he said.
Dayan said that until now the Egyptians conditioned the resumption of negotiations on changes in Israel’s position. “Well, we have not changed our minds and yet there is the London meeting,” he said. “Of course, some new proposals might come up in London and the government may review them and change its position, but not as an Egyptian pre-condition.” Dayan said the London meeting would deal with the Israeli and Egyptian plans, and how and where to resume negotiations. He noted that Sadat recently suggested the town of El Arish in northern Sinai as the site of further talks. But it is too early to say, Dayan observed.
BACKGROUND OF TALKS
Although there was no official disclosure, the available information indicated that Weizman acted on his own initiative in setting up the Salzburg meeting with Sadat and Gamassy and consulted with Premier Menachem Begin and other ministers only after he had a positive response from Cairo. Informed sources here said Weizman acted Sunday after the Cabinet rejected the six-point peace proposals by Sadat and after the much publicized Vienna meeting between Sadat and Shimon Peres, leader of the opposition Labor Alignment.
Weizman sent a note to Gamassy, with whom he has had cordial relations, suggesting that they renew their personal contacts before the London meeting. One source said Weizman did not mention the London meeting but suggested a meeting with Gamassy at the earliest possible time. Gamassy’s reply was sent yesterday through the small Israeli military mission in Alexandria. He said he would be glad to meet with Weizman in Salzburg.
At that point, Weizman contacted Begin who in turn summoned a number of ministers, including Dayan, for consultations. They agreed that Weizman should accept Gamassy’s invitation and this was conveyed to Cairo. The Defense Minister flew to Salzburg this morning accompanied by Gen. Avraham Tamir, chief of the planning department at General Headquarters, and Maj. Aryeh Shor, his personal secretary.