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Israeli, Egyptian Peace Negotiations Focusing on U.S. ‘draft Treaty’

The United States has introduced a “draft treaty” for an Egyptian-Israeli peace and “both sides” in the Blair House conference are “focusing on it for negotiating purposes,” the trilateral conference’s official spokesman disclosed.

“It is a treaty foreseen in the framework agreed at Camp David” for an Egyptian-Israeli settlement but the spokesman refused to discuss any details or even its length. The draft, which he acknowledged was prepared by the United States before the conference opened last Thursday, was offered at the first plenary session of the delegations Thursday afternoon and is the only draft “on the table.”

The spokesman said Egypt and Israel have “positions” and “assume things are being set forth on paper” but the procedure is for the parties “to go through” the American draft “systematically” as “each side registers its own thinking.” Although progress continues, the spokesman said, “I want to make it clear that obviously there are differences as well as agreements.”

The spokesman is George Sherman, who has been the chief information officer for the State Department’s Middle East section for the past four years and previously was the diplomatic correspondent for the Washington Star. An American spokesman, as at the Camp David talks, is the lone authoritative official to discuss publicly the events of the Blair House conference.

Sherman acknowledged last Friday that the Camp David framework related to the West Bank and Gaza Strip also is being discussed at Blair House. Pressed on this matter, Sherman said he had “no new ground to break” and referred to President Carter’s news conference statement last Tuesday that the two Camp David frameworks are “not legally interconnected” but are “interrelated.” Sherman stressed the present talks are on negotiating the text of an Egyptian-Israeli treaty but “that does not prejudice discussion of the implementation of the other framework.”

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BLAIR HOUSE, CAMP DAVID

The U.S. presentation of its draft virtually at the start of the Blair House meeting contrasts with the procedure at Camp David where Carter heard both sides before making proposals of his own.

“That’s the difference between Camp David and Blair House,” Sherman responded when the question on the speedy American initiative was put to him. “We put flesh on the framework and that’s the focus of the negotiations.” He said the draft is “a vehicle for negotiation,” and was introduced “in our role as a full participant in the talks.” Both the Egyptian and Israeli delegations “accepted the U.S. suggestion” to present it, Sherman said. “There was no hassle over this procedure,” he stressed.

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who left Friday night for meetings in Pretoria and Geneva, met with the Egyptian delegation Friday morning and later with that of Israel. Another plenary session was held Friday afternoon. No formal meetings were held on the Jewish Sabbath yesterday. No formal meetings are being held today and tomorrow due to Succoth. (Related story P. 3.)

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