Egyptian media close to President Anwar Sodat hinted today that Egypt and Israel may be on the way to working out means to resume the autonomy talks which Sodat has suspended. These indications in the semi-official daily Al Ahram and in the weekly magazine “October,” followed a 45 minute meeting today between Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben-Elissa rand Egypt’s new Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali, at the Foreign Ministry in Cairo.
It was the first such meeting since the Egyptians froze the negotiations for autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It was also attended by the Egyptian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Butros Ghali.
Kol Israel Radio reported from Cairo today that the Egyptians gave Ben-Elissor a message to convey to Jerusalem. The Israeli envoy refused to comment on this. He told reporters, on leaving the Foreign Ministry, that he had conveyed to Ali a message of congratulations on his appointment as Foreign Minister from Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
While there was no official report on the contents of the letter given to Ben-Elissar, Al Ahram said today that it contained specific Egyptian proposals for resumption of the talks.
Sodat suspended them on May 8 because of “lack of progress” but he announced, during a four-hour speech to the Egyptian Parliament last Wednesday that they would be resumed at an early date. Instead, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that the talks would remain suspended because of Israel’s recent “behavior.” The reference was to a new “basic law” declaring united Jerusalem the capital of Israel, which the Knesset approved on first reading last week and sent to committee.
NO CHOICE BUT TO RESUME TALKS
Anis Mansour, a journalist close to Sodat, wrote in the current issue of “October” that there was no choice but to resume the Egyptian-Israeli U.S. talks on autonomy. Al Ahram said today that Egypt had received clarifications from Israel with respect to the Jerusalem bill in the Knesset. According to the paper, the Israelis explained that the Knesset acted to kill a bill which was proposed by an ultra-nationalist opposition faction (Tehiya) by passing it on to committee.
Sadat sent a cable to Premier Menachem Begin and another to President Carter after he ordered the talks suspended for a second time, the Israel Broadcasting Authority correspondent in Cairo, Ehud Yaari, reported last Friday. Sadat refused to disclose the contents of his cable to Begin and there was no confirmation of it from the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.
However, the Egyptian President did acknowledge the existence of the cable in a brief meeting with reporters when he left the Cairo Mosque after Friday prayers. Asked about the statement by Israel’s chief autonomy negotiator, Interior Minister Yosef Burg, that the break-off of negotiations indicated “instability” in Egypt, Sadat retorted, “No comment.” He also refused to say under what circumstances Egypt would agree to resume the talks. However, he reiterated that the Knesset’s decision on Jerusalem “was not in its place.”
Yaari reported that Egyptian officials were uncomfortable in force of reports from Washington that American officials were critical of Sadat’s move and referred to it as an “outburst of rage.”
U.S. STUDYING SITUATION
The Carter Administration continued to try to cool an apparent attempt by the Egyptians to bring about drastic changes in Israel’s policy on Jerusalem and the West Bank. State Department spokesman Thomas Reston said Friday that the U.S. government was studying the latest communication from Cairo but that he would have “no detailed comment” on the Egyptian decision “We hope that talks can resume in the near future I can’t give an exact date,” Resion said.
Although Egyptian officials and the Cairo medic have blamed Israel for the breakdown, the State Department appeared to disagree with the Egyptian contention that the Knesset’s action on Jerusalem was a violation of the Camp David accords. Reston stressed that the Knesset “did not pass a new resolution” on Jerusalem but that “an opposition party introduced it” and the measure has gone to a Knesset committee. “We brought this fact to the Egyptian government. We hope it can be resolved,” Reston said.
Independent sources in Washington said that Sadat’s fault-finding with Israel is a “flimsy pretext” at “brinkmanship” to bring about U.S. pressure on Israel and improve Sadat’s image in the Arab world. Another source indicated that Sadat was looking for additional support from the United States politically and economically to help offset his domestic problems.
There were indications in Washington over the weekend that the talks would not be resumed before the end of this week. U.S. special Ambassador Sol Linowitz is still in Washington. He will meet with former Egyptian Foreign Minister Mustapha Khalil who is going there this week on a “private visit.”
REPORT U.S. INITIATIVE
Meanwhile, Begin met Friday with U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis and was reportedly informed by him that the U.S. has taken an initiative to resume the talks. Although Begin was said to have approved the initiative in principle, he reportedly told Lewis that a new date for the talks could not be set without prior consultation with Israel.
Begin told reporters Friday that Sadat’s decision to suspend the talks was “incomprehensible” and that Israel would not after its positions because of “Sadat’s tactics.” He would not say whether or not he was in favor of a new summit meeting between himself, Sadat and President Carter. He said the idea has not been brought up and therefore it was premature to discuss it. Lewis, who brought Begin a message from Corter, himself discounted the idea of a new summit meeting at this time.