Egyptian Demands May Block Resumption of Autonomy Talks

The Carter Administration’s initiative to have the stalled autonomy talks between Egypt and Israel resumed may founder again on Egypt’s insistence to have its way on the substance of the negotiations and immediate changes of Israeli policy in the occupied territories.

With Israel’s chief negotiator, Interior Minister Yosef Burg and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali due to meet here Wednesday with U.S. special Ambassador Sol Linowitz, an anonymous senior Egyptian official was reported in the media here as saying that those sessions are, in Egypt’s view, a “test” of U.S. views toward Israel.

The Egyptian official, who arrived here last week in advance of Ali, said that Egypt, which broke off the talks last month, has been reluctant in recent weeks to agree to President Carter’s request to discuss resuming the negotiations because the autonomy meetings so far in the 13 months since they began, have been mostly procedural. He said that substantive matters have been almost untouched, including the status of East Jerusalem and land and water rights.

The official, who refused to permit the use of his name, said, “The Americans have been telling us that in the absence of any dialogue, the Israelis were able to take a free hand” on the West Bank and Gaza. “We decided to test this argument, “he said. While the official insisted that Egypt was not demanding preconditions from Israel for resuming the talks, he made it clear that Egypt wants Israel to change its West Bank policy. “Israel will have to change the situation” in that area, he said, “because it would be impossible to have elections in the present atmosphere” for officials of the self-governing authority.

The official said that Egypt will raise the matters of Israel’s expulsion of two West Bank mayors and the bomb attacks which maimed two others. The perpetrators have not yet been caught or identified.

STATE DEPARTMENT EXAMINING JERUSALEM BILL

Meanwhile, the State Department declined to comment on today’s approval by the Knesset’s Constitutional Committee of a bill declaring united Jerusalem Israel’s capital. The Department’s chief spokesman, Hodding Carter, said the matter was being examined. He pointed out that “the reason for resumption of talks to see if we resume (autonomy) talks was outlined rather forcefully and well by Ambassador Linowitz in the last 24 hours. This remains what we think necessary which is to get the parties to sit right down again and work through what impedes our ability to get back to the autonomy negotiations,” he said.

Linowitz told interviewers that “no fix is in” to have the autonomy talks resumed. Egypt and Israel, he said, have only “an understanding of the need to talk out” matters that block them. The two days of meetings among Burg, Ali and himself, Linowitz said, “may not be enough to clear the air.” He added, “Unless there is a feeling on both sides that they can get somewhere, there is no reason to begin negotiating again.”

However, Linowitz said he was encouraged by the attitudes in Cairo and Jerusalem. He said if the talks are resumed, they probably will begin in Cairo about July 20.

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