Egyptian, Israeli Delegations Meet in El Arish on Transfer of the Town

High level Israeli and Egyptian delegations met at El Arish this afternoon to continue discussions on the transfer of that northern Sinai town to Egyptian sovereignty to take place later this month. The Egyptian delegation was headed by Dr. Hassan Kamal, chief of President Anwar Sadat’s Office, He was received by Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Director General of Premier Menachem Begin’s Office, who headed the Israeli delegation. After conferring briefly, the two men boarded an Israel Air force helicopter for the short flight to Military Government headquarters.

The Israeli army will evacuate El Arish on May 25. Begin and Sadat will meet there on Sunday, May 27 to formally conclude the transfer. Today’s talks concerned details of that summit meeting. Technical aspects of the transfer of authority were discussed at the same time by the joint Egyptian-Israeli military committee. The committee is engaged in plotting the transition border and is continuing the search for the remains of Yom Kippur War dead on both sides.

A civilian delegation from Egypt is due in El Arish tomorrow to discuss fishing rights in the off-shore waters after the town reverts to Egyptian administration. Fishing is the main source of income in El Arish which has a population of 45,000. Many of the fishermen have business ties with Israeli firms and the discussions are aimed at avoiding drastic changes that may result from the transfer of authority.

The El Arish fishermen want to continue to sell their catch in the Israeli market and the Israeli government concurs. But Cairo may insist that the fish go to the Egyptian market. An agreement has been reached to allow some 5000 El Arish workers to retain their jobs in Israel.

GETTING READY FOR HISTORIC DAY

Meanwhile, El Arish is a beehive of activity An Egyptian truck convoy arrived today carrying communications equipment and equipment for the transfer ceremonies. One of the first projects will be to lay direct telephone lines to Cairo. Residents are painting their houses for the ceremonies and building 10-foot high “Victory Gates” superimposed with photographs of Sadat. Egyptian flags are flying everywhere and decorate cars, trucks and even bicycles. Residents lined the streets today to cheer the arriving Egyptian delegates.

Begin and Sadat will fly from El Arish to Beersheba and thence to Ben Gurion Airport where they will board Sadat’s plane for a flight to Cairo. From there they will fly back to El Arish. The flight will be symbolic of the inauguration of the first “air corridor” between Israel and Egypt. But Israeli authorities stressed today that the corridor would not be opened immediately to regular tourist traffic. It will be used only by official planes carrying government parties and invited special groups. Normal commercial flights are not expected unit 1 the beginning of next year.

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