Washington (Aug. 3)
The development of an agreement for a multinational force and observers (MFO) to patrol the Sinai after Israel’s final withdrawal in April 1982 was seen here today as evidence of U.S. commitment to work for peace in the Middle East. But the commitment was viewed differently by the parties involved — the United States, Egypt and Israel.
This was evident at a State Department ceremony this afternoon when Secretary of State Alexander Haig witnessed the signing of the MFO agreement by Israel’s Ambassador Ephraim Evron and Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal. Haig also signed identical letters to the Foreign Ministers of Israel and Egypt outlining U.S. commitments to the agreement, including providing more than 1,000 troops for the MFO and getting other nations to make up the rest of the 2,500 member force.
Haig, noting the “pleasure” the agreement has given both President Reagan and himself, said the agreement was a “reflection of a new confidence in the Middle East in America’s leadership, its willingness to meet its commitments and obligations to the peace process.” He said a first step in the peace process would be moving toward the autonomy talks, a step which he said will begin with the visits of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat this week and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin in September.
Ghorbal, in his remarks, also called for progress toward a Palestinian autonomy. He noted the Reagan Administration’s first efforts in the Middle East, as evidenced by the Sinai agreement and the “cease-fire” across the Israel-Lebanon border, “augurs well for the future.”
Evron stressed that the agreement signed today was the “implementation of President Carter’s commitment on this issue. We should all remember that the credibility of an American commitment, on any issue, is essential to keeping the momentum of the Camp David accords.” The Israeli envoy stressed that the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement “does not mean Israeli withdrawals only” but also “full normalization and friendly relations and cooperation between our countries and peoples.”
Meanwhile, only Fiji has announced that it is willing to send troops to the MFO. State Department spokesman Dean Fischer said that the U.S. expects to have the “components” of the MFO ready soon, but he said it will not announce individual acceptance by countries until the entire force is complete.
The U.S. has agreed to allocate $125 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, to pay for the Sinai forces and the construction costs involved in creating the MFO by next March. Starting in the 1983 fiscal year, Israel, Egypt and the U.S. will each pay one third of the costs of MFO or $35 million annually.