First Autonomy Talks Yield No Progress but Agreements Reached on Some Procedural Matters

Israel’s six-man delegation returned from Alexandria late yesterday after an initial round of talks with the Egyptian and American teams in the negotiations over autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The two-day session, the first working meeting since the autonomy talks were formally opened in Beersheba May 26, produced no progress on substantive matters nor, apparently, was any expected. But certain procedural matters were settled and Israel and Egypt agreed to refrain as much as possible from public statements on controversial issues so as not to further complicate the extremely delicate negotiating process.

Interior Minister Yosef Burg, head of the Israeli delegation, was received by President Sadat at the latter’s Maomura residence in Alexandria shortly before the Israelis departed. The Israeli minister told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport that “Sadat raised the issue” of Israeli settlements on the West Bank on which there is a vast gap between the Israeli and Egyptian positions. However, according to Burg, Sadat indicated that he did not want this to hinder the talks, saying “I will take up all problems with Mr. Begin when he comes here.” Premier Menachem Begin will meet with Sadat in Alexandria early next month — possibly on July 5 — for their second summit meeting since they declared open borders between their countries on May 28.

The next session in the autonomy negotiations will be held at the Israeli seaside resort town of Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, at the end of this month. The Israelis and Egyptians agreed that there would be no chairman at that and future meetings — only “hosts.” Egyptian Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil had said earlier that he would boycott the next meeting if Burg insisted on acting as chairman. But he will attend the next round of negotiations in Herzliya.

It was also agreed that no minutes would be kept at certain sessions so that the participants can feel free to “express themselves uninhibited.” An Egyptian official, his identity not immediately disclosed will come to Israel next week to discuss the timetable for the Herzliya talks.

DIFFERENCES OVER U.S. ROLE

Some differences appear to have arisen at Alexandria between Israel and the U.S. over the latter’s role in the autonomy negotiations. Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan said in a television interview last night that Israel wants the Americans to be “full partners” rather than “full participants.” Dayan went so far as to say that if Israel does not receive a satisfactory reply on the American status it might “reconsider” its position vis-a-vis the Camp David accords. He did not elaborate but it is understood here that Israel prefers the U.S. to maintain a low profile in the actual negotiations and allow the Israelis and Egyptians to settle the issues between themselves.

Shortly before the Israelis left, Sadat said “The Americans are full partners and they will continue to be full partners and this is quite sufficient.” Similar statements were made by the Israeli ministers and by James Leonard, the deputy of Ambassador Robert Strauss who President Carter named to head the American delegation. Strauss is expected to come to the Middle East early next month. Leonard reportedly asked the Israelis if they wanted the Americans completely out of the negotiations. The Israelis politely clarified their position on the issue. An exact definition of the American role is expected to be worked out in the course of diplomatic contacts.

BURG PRAISES SADAT

Burg said yesterday that he hoped the points separating Israel and Egypt would be resolved but did not say Israel was prepared to make any compromise on the settlements issue. He was very complimentary in his remarks about his Egyptian hosts. The Interior Minister told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that President Sadat is a “world statesman.” He said “Sadat stressed that he has a strong desire for peace, that he will not be deterred or frightened by threats and that he regards Premier Begin as a courageous man who will advance the cause of peace in the area.” Burg described Khalil as “a cultured man” and said he developed a good relationship with him. He depicted Egyptian Foreign Minister Butros Ghali as a “scholar” and said Defense Minister Kamal Hassan Ali was “very friendly.”

NEXT STORY