JERUSALEM (Aug. 5)
Israel has completed its response to a letter from Egyptian President Anwar Sodat asking for “clarifications” which would enable the autonomy talks to resume Premier Menachem Begin drafted a 10-page reply last night and it was approved by a special ministerial committee. Although the details of the letters were not revealed, it was described as polite but firm.
Interior Minister Yosef Burg, head of the Israeli negotiating team, told reporters that the resumption of the autonomy talks depend on Egypt. Sodat postponed resumption of the talks, which were due to start Sunday, until he received a reply from Begin on his 18-page letter. In a clear reference to Israel’s pique at Sodat’s repeated delays of the talks, Burg said now is the proper “time and place” for the renewed negotiations.
The general feeling in Jerusalem is that although Sodat postponed the talks as a direct reaction to the adoption by the Knesset last week of the law formally making united Jerusalem Israel’s capital, the Egyptian President is not interested in resuming negotiations until after the Presidential elections in the United States. The Israeli letter is believed to contain a restatement of Israel’s position on Jerusalem and the territories.
Sodat’s letter, while reportedly written in a courteous and friendly style, included his demands that East Jerusalem be included in the autonomy area, that Jewish settlements on the West Bank be dismantled and that the autonomous body have judicial and legislative as well as administrative authority. Sodat also blamed Israel for the difficulties in the autonomy negotiations.
THOM, ARAFAT MEET FOR THREE HOURS
Meanwhile, in a related Middle East development, reports from Beirut said that Gaston Thom, the Foreign Minister of Luxembourg and the chairman of the European Economic Community (EEC), who is heading an EEC Mideast fact finding mission, had a three-hour meeting today with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat in Lebanon’s capital.
It was the first official meeting between a leader of the EEC and Arafat. Western diplomats in Beirut reportedly described the talks as a boost for the PLO chief’s campaign for international recognition for his organization. The fact-finding mission follows a call by the EEC at its summit meeting in Venice in June for the PLO to participate in the Mideast peace talks.
Thom who visited Israel last week, said he and Arafat discussed the PLO’s attitude toward the Venice declaration and that Arafat told him he hoped Europe would shoulder its responsibilities in any initiative it made on the Mideast. Thom is scheduled to visit Syria and Jordan this week.