WASHINGTON (Sep. 28)
President Carter said today that the United States would be a “full partner” in the Israel-Egyptian peace negotiations but he did not expect to be personally “involved” in the talks unless a dispute broke out that could not be settled on the foreign ministers’ or delegations’ levels and required the active participation of the leaders of the three countries.
But Carter said that he believes that all the principles for a treaty have been resolved and only details have to be worked out. He said that he spoke by telephone to both Israeli Premier Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and they had assured him “there are no remaining obstacles to proceeding as rapidly as possible to conclude a peace treaty.”
The President’s remarks were made at a press conference at which he stressed that the dispute between him and Begin over the duration for the freeze on Jewish settlements on the West Bank was an “honest difference of opinion,” that the extent of the U.S. commitment on the construction of two air bases in the Sinai had to be negotiated and that he would like to see a conference of all parties involved in the Lebanese dispute in order to bring about a return to a unified government in Beirut.
Carter’s comments on the air bases which are to replace the two bases Israel is relinquishing to Egypt in the Sinai came when he was asked if the U.S. might decide not to build the bases if Israel kept to its position on the West Bank settlements. He said the U.S. was committed to participating in the building of the bases and this was contained in a letter from Defense Secretary Harold Brown to Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman.
But he said the “degree of participation” would be subject to negotiations. Previously, it had been understood that the U.S. would provide the estimated $1 billion needed for the fields while the bases would be built by the Israelis themselves.
Asked if he planned a Christmas visit to the Middle East, Carter said that “nothing would please me more than to participate in the signing of a peace treaty.” But he noted this still had to be negotiated. He said his only commitment was a promise to Sadat that he would visit Egypt but no date was set. On Lebanon, Carter said he did not favor partition but wanted all factions in the country to unite under a strong central govemmont.