WASHINGTON (Jul. 31)
The United States expressed itself today as “very disappointed” with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s refusal to continue Egyptian-Israeli peace talks. Nevertheless Secretary of Stale Cyrus Vance will go to the Middle East late this week for “a full exploration” of the new developments there, the State Department said.
We are very disappointed that President Sadat has announced that Egypt will not participate in another round of negotiations with Israel under present circumstances,” the Department’s chief spokesman Hodding Carter said. “This notwithstanding, Secretary Vance will be going to the Middle East as scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat,” he said.
He said Vance will leave late Friday or early Saturday for visits, First to Jerusalem and then to Cairo. He said there were no plans for other stops. However, it was expected that Vance would also go to Amman, Jordan and, particularly, to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in view of Saudi Arabia’s special relationship with both Egypt and the U.S.
Sadat announced, after meeting with U.S. special envoy Alfred L. Atherton in Alexandria yesterday, that Israel must drop its demands for territorial compromise in the occupied Arab lands before Egypt will agree to continue talks on the foreign ministers level, such as those at Leeds Castle, England, two weeks ago.
Egyptian officials were quoted in Cairo today as saying that Egypt is still willing to negotiate with Israel and has not abandoned its peace initiative. However, they did not expect further talks until at least September. The U.S. had hoped that talks would resume by mid-August, presided over by Vance, at a locale in Sinai. Asked what point there was in Vance going to the Middle East in view of Sadat’s statement and the fact that Atherton is already there and is trying to reach the some objective–resumption of Egyptian-Israeli talks–the State Department spokesman replied, “This announcement (by Sadat) clearly raises a new set of circumstances that require close consultations.”
He said that Vance would be making “a full exploration of precisely where we are now.” He said he did not want to speculate so early after Sadat’s announcement as to whether another meeting of the Egyptian and Israeli foreign ministers and the U.S. would be held. “There is a feeling we need to meet the leaders of both countries,” Hodding Carter said. “What we will do is too early to speculate.”
MUM ON MEANING OF SADAT’S REMARKS
He refused to offer an interpretation of Sadat’s remarks except to express “disappointment.” He said the decision for Vance to go to the Middle East “obviously was taken very recently–in the wake of Sadat’s speech. The Secretary is with the President at Camp David.” Asked if the decision was made at Camp David, meaning by President Carter, the spokesman said “The Secretary did indeed reach this decision and gave it to me in the last hour or two.”
The decision apparently concerned a visit to the Mideast in the light of Sadat’s statement. Vance had announced, after the Leeds Castle meeting, that he intended to visit the area within two weeks. The State Department spokesman confirmed that the Egyptian and Israeli foreign ministers had agreed to meet again after their meeting in England. Later, a State Department source said Vance’s statement in England that another meeting of the foreign ministers would be held “was okayed” by both foreign ministers. The U.S. had confidently expected that such a meeting would take place, until Sadat’s statement yesterday.
The White House, however, sought to play down the Camp David meeting where Carter, in addition to conferring with Vance, also conferred this morning with Defense Secretary Harold Brown and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. A White House spokesman this afternoon sought to allay concern over Sadat’s refusal to continue the peace talks at this time, saying that the Camp David participants went there because they had been unable to hold two of their last working meetings. The spokesman asserted that the “full range” of foreign policy was discussed at Camp David.
LEBANESE GOVERNMENT MOVE WELCOMED
Discussing the latest developments in Lebanon, the State Department spokesman said the U.S. “obviously welcomes” the decision of the Lebanese government to send 500 troops to south Lebanon and “the re-establishment” of Lebanese government authority in that region. “We see it as a positive step,” he said. He said the Lebanese government acted “in close consultation” with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). “This step was discussed with us and we supported it. It was a Lebanese decision, “Carter said. He said “We continue to urge all (parties) to support Lebanese control in south Lebanon.”