Burg Says Autonomy Talks Will Pro Ceed ‘hopefully but Carefully’
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Burg Says Autonomy Talks Will Pro Ceed ‘hopefully but Carefully’

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” Hopefully but carefully” was the watchword coined by Israel’s chief negotiator Interior Minister Yosef Burg today as the Israel-Egypt autonomy talks resumed at a luxury hotel in this seaside resort. It was echoed by his Egyptian counterpart, Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil.

The delegates held a brief late-morning meeting and a longer afternoon session; attempting still to hammer out an agreed agenda. The Israeli side said before the day’s talks began that it would press to start considering the practical issues of detail involved in creating the projected Palestinian autonomy, i.e., the holding of elections; eligibility of candidates voting , suffrage, etc.

Israeli sources said the Egyptians seemed–to want the agenda to extend beyond the matter at hand — autonomy — and include declarative statements which in effect anticipated the negotiations over the “permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza,” set, under Camp David, for three years hence. Thus Egyptian officials-at Herzliya last week had proposed that the agenda include an item labeled “Resolution 242” and another dealing with a “comprehensive settlement.” They suggested that the details of autonomy come under a broadly-phrased rubric. “The Self-Governing Authority (Administrative Council).”

The Israeli side, on the other hand, is proposing a long list of precise and detailed items comprising data on how to hold elections, who is eligible to vote, who may stand as a candidate, how the Autonomous. Council is to be constituted, its departments, their powers, tax-collection, promulgation of ordinances, etc. — in fact, all the legal minutiae required to set up the council. And the Israelis are balking at the Egyptian quest to include “declarative” material in the agenda, on the grounds that this goes beyond the terms-of-reference of these negotiations.

The Israeli negotiators suspect, moreover, that by seeking to encompass all the myriad details under a single, broadly-worded rubric. (” The Self-Governing Authority”) on the agenda, the Egyptians might be trying to imply that these details are in fact to be determined by the self-governing authority itself. This would flatly contravene the Israeli view that the authority’s ambit of powers must be circumscribed in the Israel-Egypt negotiations, and that Israel must continue, even after the autonomy is established, to be the legal source of authority. It was this wide divergence of approach that has held up substantial progress until now, the Israeli sources said.


The U.S. is also taking part in the talks, with veteran diplomat James Leonard heading its team. The Americans are now very conscious of the upcoming summit meeting of Premier Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat, tentatively scheduled for July 10. Sadat himself has said publicly that he hopes problems relating to autonomy talks will be resolved at that meeting, thereby implying that no great deal of progress can be expected before then.

Another round of autonomy talks has been set for July 5 at. Alexandria. But rumors here today had it that the Begin-Sadat meeting would be advanced to that date, in part so that President Carter’s special ambassador to the autonomy talks, Robert Strauss, can attend the summit. Strauss is expected in Israel next week for talks with various ministers. He will then go to Egypt and is expected to take part personally in the next round of the autonomy talks.

In his opening statement this morning, Burg referred briefly to the dispute that had developed between the delegations in Alexandria two weeks ago over the U.S., role in the talks. “The question of the status of the American delegation that was raised in Alexandria, “Burg said, “has been clarified by on exchange of documents. So let us continue our deliberations hopefully but carefully, carefully but hopefully.” Khalil. picked up this line, agreeing that “the deliberations should move, as Dr. Burg said, hopefully but carefully, so that we can reach what we are all determined to reach — a comprehensive peace settlement in the area.”

In the “exchange of documents” between Jerusalem and Washington over the U.S., role, it was agreed, according to Israeli sources, that the U.S., would be a full partner in the negotiations but not a party to the eventual agreement nor to its implementation. This, in the Israeli view, parallels the situation during the Israel-Egypt peace treaty negotiations. The Israeli team was down to four ministers and their aides this morning. Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan was hospitalized and Defense Minister Ezer Weizman withdrew from the negotiations yesterday.


Egypt’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Butros Ghali, sought to visit Dayan in the hospital today, but was apparently told that the Israeli minister is not yet up to receiving guests. Dayan under went surgery yesterday morning for the removal of on intestinal polyp. Ghali sent him a large bouquet of flowers with a get-well message.

Weizman, although not participating in the meetings, made a point of being at Ben Gurion Airport this morning to welcome khalil and Egyptian Defense Minister Kemal Hassan Ali. Weizman did not take part in the official red-carpet welcoming ceremony but hurried over to the Egyptian motorcade just as it was about to drive off and warmly greeted the two ministers. Weizman took Ali out for lunch in Tel Aviv and escorted him back to the Accadia Hotel in Herzliya where the talks are being held. He parted from his Egyptian counterpart, with a handshake at the door to the meeting room, as the television cameras whirred, as if to demonstrate as blatantly as possible his non-participation in the actual talks.

Tonight, Burg is to host the Egyptian and American teams at a dinner in Caesaria to be followed by a moonlight tour of the Roman Amphitheater and ruins there. Begin is touring Galilee today and tomorrow and there is still some doubt as to whether he will find time to see Khalil.

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