LONDON (Jul. 19)
The Middle East talks here were sufficiently successful to warrant further contacts involving Egypt, Israel and the United States, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance said today, but there is still no agreement on a renewal of full-scale negotiations.
Vance was commenting at the end of the two-day meeting of the Israeli and Egyptian Foreign Ministers, under his chairmanship, at the closely guarded Leeds Castle, deep in the Kent countryside 40 miles southeast of London. The meeting had not broken down, like an earlier one in Jerusalem last January. Although no major decisions were taken, these exploratory talks justified further contacts. Alfred Atherton, U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, will go to the region immediately to lay the groundwork for Vance’s own trip there in two weeks.
After the talks, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kaamel, flew by helicopter to catch their planes back home from London. Although the talks had not broken down, neither minister was unhappy that they had ended. Provisional arrangements had been made to extend them by one more day, but this did not happen.
Throughout the two-day meeting, Egyptian spokesmen remained bitterly critical of what they regarded as Israel’s illegal refusal to evacuate the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to grant their inhabitants self-determination, and to accept international guarantees of security.
BUSINESSLIKE, THOROUGH TALKS
However, despite the rhetoric of the official Egyptian spokesmen, the actual talks were businesslike and thorough. That was especially true of the protracted, technical dialogue between the leading legal experts of both sides when considering Israel’s 26-point plan granting limited autonomy to the Palestinian inhabitants of the disputed territories. The participants were Prof. Aharon Barak, the Israeli Attorney General, and Dr. Nabil Arabi, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s top lawyer.
The atmosphere on the second day had been further strained by President Anwar Sadat’s threat from Khartoum that if the talks in the castle failed, there could be no resumption of direct talks in the Middle East. Vance’s announcement that he would visit the region shortly was seen as an attempt to reassure the Egyptian President that his threat need not be carried out.
Vance also expressed his gratitude to the British government which had put the castle at their disposal and provided the heavy police guard both there and at London airport for the ministers’ arrival and departure. Yesterday, Dayan had sharply complained that it had been unnecessary to transfer the talks to the castle from the London hotel where they had originally been due to take place. Although observers here thought Dayan was being rude to the British government, his remarks may have also reflected his lack of enthusiasm for the talks being held at all.