Autonomy Issue Unresolved at Summit

Premier Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat wound up their three-day summit meeting here with a joint press conference today at which both leaders acknowledged that they had failed to reach agreement on the issue of autonomy and how it might relate to Jerusalem. They reaffirmed, however, that the normalization of relations between Israel and Egypt will proceed according to the time-table laid down by their peace treaty.

Begin told reporters that postal and telephonic communications as well as civilian land, sea and air links would be opened between the two countries on Jan. 26 followed by the exchange of Ambassadors on Feb. 26.

Sadat reiterated that he intended to implement normalization in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the peace treaty. But he expressed disappointment over the impasse on autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “I would have hoped to make progress on the autonomy issue,” he said. He added, “we still have time,” indicating that more summit meetings will be needed. The peace treaty calls for the autonomy negotiations to be completed by May 26.

Begin told the press conference that he would consider Sadat’s proposal to implement autonomy first in the Gaza Strip where the inhabitants are believed to be more amenable than on the West Bank. Egypt believes it still exerts some influence in that territory which it ruled until 1967. Begin said he would submit the suggestion to his Cabinet for consideration.

However, he was adamant in his rejection of Sadat’s proposal that East Jerusalem be included in the autonomy plan, allowing its Arab residents to vote in the elections for the self-governing administrative council on the West Bank.

“I again told President Sadat that Jerusalem in the eternal capital of Israel and is indivisible.” Begin told reporters on his return to Israel this evening.

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