Report Egypt and Israel Agree in Principle to Jointly Use Airport

Israel and Egypt have agreed in principle to share one of the Sinai airfields that Israel will relinquish when it completes its withdrawal from Sinai in 1981– but on a strictly civilian basis, it was disclosed today, The disclosure was made by Joseph Maayan, director general of the Defense Ministry to the Knesset Economic Committee. He said that a formal agreement will have to be worked out in negotiations between the two countries.

The facility in question is the Etzion air base which is close to the Israeli town of Eilat. It will be handed over to Egyptian sovereignty. But under the terms of the Israeli Egyptian peace treaty, Egypt will not be allowed to use it as a military air base because of its proximity to Eilat. Instead, both Israel and Egypt will use it jointly for civilian aircraft. It will supplement the commercial airport at Eilat which is not equipped to handle the large number of tourists who visit that resort area each year.

Meanwhile, work is continuing on the American-financed military air bases being built in the Negev to replace those that Israel will give up in Sinai. Maayan said that the Defense Ministry would offer more jobs to local workers because of possible unemployment resulting from the government’s anti-inflation program. But foreign labor employed by the American contractors continued to arrive.

An additional III workers from Portugal landed in Israel today to join an earlier group of 82 Portuguese workers on the Ramat Matred air base near Mitzpeh Ramon. About 2500 workers are expected from Portugal in the next six months but they may be asked to leave if it turns out that Israelis need the jobs.

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