Tel Aviv (Aug. 26)
Premier Menachem Begin and Eygptian President Anwar Sadat announced today in Alexandria that the autonomy talks would resume Sept. 23. They said the fixing of the date was the most important achievement of their meetings. They said they hoped the talks could be successfully concluded by the end of the year, but Begin added that he could not guarantee that.
Interior Minister Yosef Burg, who heads the Israeli negotiating team at the autonomy talks, told Israel Army Radio in Alexandria where he accompanied Begin, that the talks next month would begin in Egypt with the participation of an American representative. He said the talks would be “continual” and “at a senior level.”
(In Washington, the State Department welcomed the development on the autonomy talks. Department spokesman Dean Fischer said, “We want to stress that as a participant in the Camp David process, it is very encouraging.” He said he did not know who would represent the U.S. when the talks resume.)
At the press conference, Sadat said he thought the normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel was proceeding well. He said that Begin had pointed out to him some shortcomings in the normalization process and that he immediately instructed his Foreign Minister to correct it.
Sadat said there need be no fear that Egypt would renege on its undertakings once it had regained Sinai in full next April. He stressed that Egypt regarded the peace treaty as part of its strategy, not a tactical object to be used for other purposes.
SAYS STATEMENTS ON PLO MISUNDERSTOOD
Asked about his recent statements about the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian participation in the peace talks, Sadat said he appeared to have been misunderstood. Ever since his first visit to Jerusalem in 1977 he had spoken about the need to bring the Palestinians into the peace process, and this was enshrined in the Camp David peace accords.
Sadat said he did not mean the Palestinians should be brought into the talks immediately, but only after the autonomy talks had been concluded, and during the five-year period of temporary rule. And he again pointed out he has said he does not regard the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
Reporters present at the press conference noted that Sadat refrained from mentioning the PLO by name, referring only to “Palestinians” apart from his statement that he still did not regard the PLO as the “sole representative of the Palestine people.”
Begin took advantage of the special forum offered him in Alexandria to speak at length of why Israel did not regard the PLO as a negotiating partner. He quoted resolutions of Arab forums and statements by leaders of the “international terrorist organization” announcing their undying enmity of Israel, which they wished to see destroyed, and their anti-Western policies which made them a tool of Moscow.
Begin said Palestinian representatives from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be welcome in the Egyptian delegation to any negotiations.
Sadat said there should be mutual recognition between the Palestinians and Israel, a remark similar to that which he made in London and Washington on his visits there earlier this month. Burg told Israel Army Radio that the purpose of Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s recent round of talks with West Bank Arab leaders was to persuade them to join the Egyptian delegation to the autonomy talks.
Sadat welcomed Begin’s remarks that he viewed the cease-fire on the Israeli-Lebanese border as a permanent one. But Begin pointed out that the cease-fire was between Israel and Lebanon, and Israel reserved the right to defend itself against attacks “from anywhere, not only from Jordan or Syria.”
Sadat said he preferred to give a “no comment” reply to a question about what he and Begin had told each other about the Israeli raid on the Iraqi nuclear reactor and the “Israel bombing of Beirut.” Begin said he would agree to that comment, after pointing out that “we did not bomb Beirut. We bombed PLO headquarters there.”
Before coming to the press conference, Begin and the Israeli delegation visited the Great Synagogue of Alexandria. Begin noted that this was his second visit there. He appealed to the small Jewish community — descendants of an ancient community — to “keep the spark alive. We want all Jews to come to Israel, but of their own free will.”
Begin, upon returning to Israel tonight said the summit meeting had been “very positive, with positive results.” He said the September meetings on the autonomy talks would be held in Cairo, after his return from Washington. A subsequent round of talks would be held in Israel.
Begin said there would be speedy movement on normalization of cultural, tourism and agriculture ties between the two countries, with Israel’s Tourist Minister going to Cairo shortly. Reporters who returned with Begin said Soviet infiltration and influence in the Middle East and the downing by American planes of Libyan planes had been discussed in depth during the summit, with a large measure of agreement between Sadat and Begin. Sharon remained in Egypt for a day or so of further talks.