THURMONT, MD (Sep. 13)
Presidential Press Secretary Jody Powell said today that the Camp David summit conference “obviously” is “approaching the final stages.” He said that was his “judgement.” But he cautioned newsmen, at his regular press briefing this afternoon, that there is “no basis of informed speculation on the final outcome” of the conference, now in its eighth day, and repeated that he does not know when it will be concluded.
He said the discussions over the “past several days” have been “intense, specific and wide-ranging.” He said the process, since Sunday, was one of “active consultations” and “we are basically in a situation now” where “the question” for both the conferees and the media is “what fruit will they (the discussions) bear.”
He reported that President Carter met with Israeli Premier Menachem Begin for 80 minutes last night in the President’s quarters at Aspen Lodge and that members of all three delegations are engaged in a series of meetings within their own groups or with other delegations. But Powell emphasized that “it is not possible to speculate” on the results “in an informed manner.”
Powell was pressed to explain why there has been no trilateral meeting between Carter, Begin and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt since last Thursday. He replied that “When it seems appropriate in the flow of business, they will dose.” He added that “without doubt” Carter, Begin and Sadat “will meet again.” He said the delegations have begun exchanging drafts in writing but pointed out that “the reduction of thoughts to paper has been going on since the beginning of this week.” However, the nature of the papers, to whom they are being presented and what points they cover, have not been disclosed.
Asked if Carter had telephoned King Hussein of Jordan, Powell said “To my knowledge he has not.” He said he would reply later to a question as to whether Sadat has spoken to Hussein since his telephone conversation with the Jordanian ruler in London last Sunday. But when asked if Jordan’s involvement is such that the summit can be regarded as a four way conference, Powell said he had no information about Jordanian involvement apart from the Sadat-Hussein conversation.
CONFLICTING APPRAISALS OF DEVELOPMENTS
When reporters asked if one or more “vital areas” still need to be settled, the White House spokesman replied, “draw your own conclusions.” In fact, there were conflicting appraisals of developments at the summit conference today. Expectations appeared in some quarters that the principles are approaching an agreement that might be announced before the end of the week although Powell replied “no” when asked if the principals were making an effort toward drafting a final statement.
In other quarters, however, doubts were expressed that an agreement was anywhere in sight. Carter’s meeting with Begin last night was described by Israeli sources as “a good, friendly meeting.” It followed a session between Carter and Sadat yesterday morning which led to speculation that Israel had proposed a compromise formula that was under consideration by Egypt.
Powell’s assertion yesterday that there was “flexibility on both sides” further supported an optimistic outlook. Begin’s press advisor, Dan Patir, told an Israel Radio reporter that gloomy reports from Camp David carried by the Egyptian media were “exaggerated.”
But reports circulated in other quarters that Carter is preparing a unilateral statement to explain why his efforts have not succeeded in bridging the Israeli-Arab differences. Carter has speaking engagements over the weekend. But Powell said that schedule would be reconsidered should the summit conference continue into the weekend. Nevertheless, there was growing speculation that the conference may end by tomorrow night.
That prediction was offered by Sen. Richard Stone (D. Fla.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on the Middle East, who spoke to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency during the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington last night and was repeated by sources here today.
Stone acknowledged that he had no direct access to the Camp David proceedings. But he predicted that an agreement would be reached there, on the basis of an Israeli formula, and would be announced tomorrow afternoon or tomorrow night. He said he based this on the “feeling” that Begin and Sadat will “work out” an agreement because they and Carter have “too much at stake not to make tangible progress.”