ALEXANDRIA (Jul. 11)
Premier Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat stressed at a press conference here today that they will continue their talks aimed at a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East and will not allow their unresolved differences on a variety of issues to affect progress toward that goal.
Although Sadat described their two days of meetings here as “the most important talks we have had so far,” the only substantive news to emerge from the press conference was that Sadat will visit Israel at the end of August at Begin’s invitation. Begin invited Sadat to visit him “in Haifa, to match the visit to the Egyptian harbor town of Alexandria.”
There was apparently no breakthrough on any major issues. The two leaders acknowledged that they did not agree in the matter of Jewish settlements on the West Bank but did agree not to play up that rift or allow it to create a crisis in the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Egypt.
The negotiations over Palestinian autonomy, which had their fourth session here last week, were mentioned only in passing at the press conference and only in reply to questions. Begin and Sadat apparently are content to leave the negotiations to the lower echelons on both sides. It was agreed when the talks adjourned last Thursday to set up several “working committees” on an agenda and other issues.
Both Begin and Sadat said they agreed that the integrity of Lebanon should be preserved Sadat appears to have brought up Israeli air raids against Palestinian terrorist strongholds in Lebanon during their conversations here. At the press conference, however, he made no comment when Begin said the raids were an act “of absolute, legitimate self defense.”
SADAT WILL NOT BE DETERRED
Sadat made it clear that he would not be deterred from his present course by opposition in most of the rest of the Arab world to the Egyptian-Israeli peace process. When he was asked about Egypt’s position in the Third World at a time when many Arab countries are pressing for its ouster from various international forums, Sadat replied: “We are launched on a way from which we will never go back….Let us see what Egypt can do without the Arab world and what the Arab world can do without Egypt.”
The joint press conference at the Ras A-Tia Palace in effect ended the political talks. Begin was touring Alexandria this afternoon and will attend a dinner tonight hosted by Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil. He flies back to Israel tomorrow.
The Israelis and Egyptians cast a veil of secrecy over the talks held yesterday and today in the gardens of the Maamura Palace in eastern Alexandria. Security was tight and aides would say only that Begin and Sadat conferred in a “relaxed atmosphere.” Israeli sources said both leaders raised specific and current issues but discussed general matters as well such as “a regional assessment of the situation.”
Observers here saw little prospect of any substantial developments emerging from this round of talks. it was understood that at this stage at least, the importance of the Begin-Sadat meeting was the fact that it was held here during the interim between the negotiating sessions on autonomy. An understanding apparently exists between the two leaders to keep the consultations between them parallel to the negotiations at a lower level. It appeared by last night that neither of them was aiming toward any specific end at this time.
Their conversations were interrupted only twice yesterday — once when the President’s wife, Mrs. Jihan Sadat, came to pay her respects to Begin and again when Sadat’s two daughters, one with a new-born infant, did the same and posed for pictures with the two leaders. Last night Begin and Sadat attended a festive dinner in the gardens where they were joined by Khaili, Vice President Hosni Mubarak, Sadat’s bureau chief Hassan Kamel, and the Governor of Alexandria, Dr. Fuad Hilmi. Exchanges of views continued at the dinner with current political matters interspersed with such topics as the historical background of Alexandria, its importance in Jewish history and in other cultures.