WASHINGTON (Sep. 19)
Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance will leave here tonight to meet with the leaders of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria in that order over the next four days in an attempt to persuade them to support the framework for a Middle East peace hammered out in 13 days of secret meetings at Camp David by Israel, Egypt and the United States.
President Carter, in an address to the joint session of Congress last night where he dealt with the two Israeli-Egyptian agreements, announced that Vance would visit Jordan’s King Hussein and Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid. This morning the White House disclosed that Syrian President Hafez Assad also said he would receive Vance. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat welcomed the Assad-Vance meeting as a very good move. Vance will be accompanied by Special Ambassador Alfred Atherton, the President’s special ambassador for the Middle East.
They are expected to return to Washington Sunday since Vance will be taking part in the United Nations General Assembly debates in New York where the agreements are certain to be under attack from the Soviet Union, some Arab states and their supporters.
Hussein, meanwhile, has indicated in interviews with American correspondents that he would not comment until he has studied the contents of the two agreements. He is coming to Washington within the next month to see Carter. But in the swift developments flowing from the Camp David surprise agreements the process of persuasion has been stepped up.
Khalid, whose political, economic and spiritual support is considered essential for the achievement of the frameworks’ purposes, has been silent. The Syrian government has been publicly critical and Assad has been hostile to Sadat since the Egyptian leader’s trip to Jerusalem last November. According to media reports from Damascus today, Syria will host an anti-Egyptian summit beginning tomorrow which will bring together the five-member “Front for Stead-fastness and Confrontation.” The Front was formed last December by Syria, Libya, South Yemen, Algeria and the Palestine Liberation Organization as a reaction to Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Israeli Premier Menachem Begin and Carter made separate appearances today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee. Begin was due in New York later today.
JERUSALEM ISSUE STILL NOT SETTLED
The one question still not settled is that of Jerusalem, a subject Carter did not mention either in his address before Congress last night or in his report to the nation Sunday night. It is now known that the Camp David summit was about to collapse over the fate of Jerusalem at one point but the matter war patched up by an agreement to exchange letters between the United States, Israel and Egypt.
Reportedly, they shelved the issue by agreeing to disagree for the time being. The letters which were to have been made public yesterday are still unavailable. It was hinted that they will be held in abeyance until after Vance discusses Jerusalem with Khalid.
Carter, who addressed Congress last night, as Begin and Sadat sat on either side of Mrs. Rosalynn Carter in the visitors’ gallery, was interrupted by applause 14 times, his most enthusiastic reception by Congress to date. All three leaders received prolonged cheers and applause when they entered the House of Representatives chambers. After Carter’s speech, Sadat and Begin clasped each other around the shoulder and left to the applause of the Congressmen.
OBSTACLES THAT STILL REMAIN
In his address to Congress, Carter pointed out that “it has been more than 2000 years since there was peace between Egypt and a free Jewish nation. If our present expectations are realized, this year we shall see such peace again.”
Noting that the “United States has had no choice but to be deeply concerned about the Middle East and to try to use our influence and our efforts to advance the cause of peace,” the President said that “the strategic location of these countries and the resources that they possess means that events in the Middle East directly affect people everywhere. We and our friends could not be indifferent if a hostile power were to establish domination there.”
Carter cautioned “we must also not forget the magnitude of the obstacles that still remain. The summit exceeded our highest expectations but we know that it left many difficult issues still to be resolved. These issues will require careful negotiations in the months to come. The Egyptian and Israeli people must recognize the tangible benefits that these will bring and support the decisions their leaders have made so that a secure and peaceful future can be achieved for them. The American public, you and I, must also offer our full support to those who have made decisions that are difficult and those who have very difficult decisions still to make.”
The President emphasized the aspects of the agreement concerning the Palestinians and pointed out that “the agreement provides a basis for the resolution of issues involving the West Bank and Gaza during the next five years. It outlines a process of change which is in keeping with Arab hopes while also carefully respecting Israel’s vital security.”
He said there is “the painful human question of the fate of the Palestinians who live or have lived in these disputed regions. The Camp David agreement guarantees that the Palestinian people may participate in the resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects, a commitment that Israel has made in writing and which is supported and appreciated, I am sure, by all the world.”
The President pointed out that “the Israeli military government over these areas (West Bank and Gaza Strip) will be withdrawn and will be replaced with a self-government of the Palestinians who live there.” He added, to applause, “Israel has committed that this government will have full autonomy.” Carter added that “Israel has agreed that the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people will be recognized.”
MUST END CONFLICT IN LEBANON
The President mentioned Lebanon telling Congress “we must also join in an effort to bring an end to the conflict and the terrible suffering in Lebanon.” He said that he and Sadat discussed this subject “many times” at Camp David and that the “first time” that Begin, Sadat and Carter met together it was a “subject of heated discussion.”
But on the return to Washington by helicopter from Camp David Sunday, Carter said: “We mutually committed ourselves to join with other nations, with the Lebanese people themselves, all factions, with President (Elias) Sarkis, with Syria, Saudi Arabia, perhaps the European countries, like France, to try to move toward a solution to the problems in Lebanon which is so vital to us and to the poor people in Lebanon who have suffered so much.” (See supplement for additional excerpts from Carter’s speech.)