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Expectation Raised for Early Resumption of Peace Negotiations

Expectations in Jerusalem of an early resumption of the stalled peace talks with Egypt rose today following a meeting between Premier Menachem Begin and U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis. Israeli officials said the Egyptian substantive position remained basically unchanged, but that Egypt, like Israel, wanted to get the peace talks started again, Lewis conveyed to Begin the contents of the Egyptian government’s letter to Washington earlier this week, setting out Cairo’s stand on the need for resuming the peace process.

That letter, signed by Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil, is understood to have dwelt on the recent adverse train of events in the region (Iran riots in Turkey, etc.), adducing them as additional reasons for resuming the Israel-Egypt peace process promptly. Last night, Lewis met for a lengthy preliminary session with Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, also to discuss the Egyptian letter and possible future move to restart the talks.

Officials here said neither a date nor modalities for the resumed talks have been determined. The U.S., they said, is plainly treading slowly and carefully, and a brief period of long-distance diplomacy is now anticipated before Secretary of State Cyrus Vance invites the two sides to a direct round of talks (or else invites himself to Cairo and Jerusalem for a round of shuttle diplomacy).

The U.S. it appears would like to obtain at least a modicum of progress on some of the disputed issues before the two protagonists are brought together again. Israel, while publicly enunciating its readiness to discuss the issues of Article IV (the “review clause”) and of the accompanying letter” (the target date), has not indicated yet any substantive shift in its position.

Similarly, Egypt, while leaking reports from Cairo of a “softening” in its stand, has also not yet signalled precisely where that softening might be. The U.S. is evidently aware of the delicate tactical minuet now being performed, with neither protagonists wishing to make the first bold step forward for fear of losing a tactical advantage.

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