WASHINGTON (Apr. 7)
The Carter Administration today cautioned against expectations of “a significant breakthrough” in President Carter’s talks with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat this week and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin next week, but it is looking “for a sort of a new mandate” for continuing the tripartite negotiations.
Only a few hours before Sadat’s scheduled arrival in Washington this afternoon for discussions of the White House with Carter tomorrow and Wednesday, an Administration official said. “We are not looking for anything particularly dramatic in talks this week or next.” Begin meets the President April 15-16. The official predicted that the Administration would not assess the results of the talks until they had been completed.
The official, whose identity cannot be disclosed under the ground rules of the news conference, met with some 30 correspondents representing the foreign media in Washington. Discussing the possible topics at the two separate summits, the official said “the ideas may not be new ones.” He said “one purpose is to narrow the focus” of the negotiations on Palestinian autonomy that have been taking place for the last 10 months.
“We hope that by May 26 something substantial can be achieved,” the official said. “But we wouldn’t be surprised” that the talks “could go on for some time after that.” May 26 is the target date for on agreement on Palestinian autonomy.
The Administration official said that the “concept of full autonomy” is included in the Camp David accords but added that “significantly what it means is not spelled out in every area.” In this connection, he spoke of the “election districts” on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and land and water rights.
STATUS OF JERUSALEM
Responding to questions on Jerusalem’s status, and on whether East Jerusalem residents should vote for the autonomy authority, the official emphasized Jerusalem was not mentioned in the Camp David accords and is not involved in the autonomy discussions “except as to the role of Jerusalem’s inhabitants for a self-governing authority.” He added that “if one of the leaders brings it up it will be discussed.” He said that “clearly the problem of Jerusalem has to be resolved in the context of a comprehensive peace.”
When Jerusalem “as an undivided city” was brought up, the official said that U.S. policy “since 1967″ embraced three points: “We don’t think Jerusalem should be divided there should be free access to holy places, and a role for individual religions in the administration of holy places.”
OTHER ISSUES INVOLVED
Asked about Jewish settlements on the West Bank, the official said “this clearly is an issue at the autonomy talks and some agreement will need to be reached.”
Asked what the U.S. will do in view of the West European effort to amend United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 that would change the status of the Palestinians from refugees to that of a political entity and for a conference to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict, the spokesman said “the autonomy talks have a life of their own regardless what the Europeans think before or after” May 26. He said the negotiations may not provide a “single breakthrough but accretions for a final package itself will make the breakthrough.”
The official suggested several times that the Palestinian Arabs in Jordan look at the “package” with “an open mind.” But he spoke of that package as something that “may” be agreed upon.
The Administration official asserted that “our role is not an attempt to impose on people or pressure people because it is likely to be counterproductive and intensifies feelings, particularly in Israel.” He added that “a resolution” of the issues “has to come out of the politics of the people, particularly in Israel, to be effective.” Meanwhile, Carter Administration officials are reported as privately having “generally accepted” the proposition that “only concessions by Israel will accomplish” the twin goals “of a comprehensive settlement and acceptance of the package by the Palestinians.”