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Shamir Hopeful That Israel, Egypt, the U.S. Can Reach an Accord on a Multi-national Force in Sinai

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir believes an agreement is possible in Cairo next week between the United States, Israel and Egypt on the multinational force to police Sinai after Israel’s withdrawal is completed next April. Shamir said the parties “will try perhaps to reach a draft agreement and this would then be followed by a signing ceremony apparently in Washington. We don’t know when.”

Shamir spoke to reporters after meeting with Michael Sterner, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asia, who is orchestrating the complex negotiations on the multinational force.

SAYS MANY POINTS HAVE BEEN RESOLVED

Sterner himself told the press that “Many points have been resolved. Some have not — and that’s what we’ll be tackling in the days ahead.” He said Israel and Egypt were “both proceeding in a constructive spirit …. I find that both sides desire to proceed with these negotiations quite independently of regional developments whether in Lebanon or anywhere else.”

Sterner said he was “very pleased” with what had been achieved to date, in his two days of talks here and in earlier meetings he held in Cairo. These included a two-hour session with President Anwar Sadat Sunday.

Sterner will head the American team in the tripartite talks at the Mena House Hotel in Cairo next week. Israel’s delegation will be chaired by Foreign Ministry Director General David Kimche and the Egyptians will be led by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Osama El-Baz, a key figure throughout the peace process. The Israeli and Egyptian teams will include military men and legal aides.

NEGOTIATIONS ARE ESPECIALLY COMPLICATED

Israeli sources say the negotiations are especially complicated because a multinational force of this kind — not related to any extant binding framework such as the UN, NATO, or the Warsaw Pact — is in fact unprecedented in international relations.

Among the problems that this raises are:

Discipline within the force, across national lines; the ability of any contributing state to withdraw its contingent without reference to the other states or to Israel and Egypt; and financing the force.

Sterner was reluctant to discuss details of the negotiations but he disclosed that financing was one of the issues still on the agenda and unresolved. Another issue was to what extent the force would use facilities that Israel will leave behind when it pulls out of Sinai in April, 1982.

Israeli sources said one idea being aired is for the force to have a military commander — probably not American — and in addition a civilian director-general who probably would be an American.

It is not yet clear what other countries in addition to the U.S. will agree to participate in the force. But high Israeli sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that a number of countries which the U.S. had approached have indicated a positive response. Sterner said that not all the responses had yet been received.

ONE ISSUE STILL OUTSTANDING

The American diplomat said he had “every expectation” that the force would be in place and operational before the final withdrawal date. Israel has said publicly that the force is an integral part of the peace treaty and that it would refuse to make the final withdrawal unless and until the force is place.

Observers here believe that one main issue still outstanding between Israel and Egypt is the power and authority of the proposed force. Egypt sees it mainly as a supervisory body while Israel wants it to be strong enough to enforce adherence to the treaty provisions, such as demilitarization and limited-forces-zones in Sinai, or at least to take active measures if necessary to deter infringement these provisions.

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