Washington (Aug. 30)
Secretary of State Alexander Haig said here that the Administration was “pleasantly surprised” about the resumption of the autonomy talks, announced at the end of the two-day meeting between Premier Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in Alexandria last week. “We welcome the agreement to sit down at an early date and get on with the autonomy discussions,” Haig told a press conference at the State Department last Friday.
There had been reports that some Administration officials expressed unhappiness over the announcement of the resumed autonomy talks because the U.S., which is a partner in the talks, was not notified in advance. But Haig at his press conference gave no indication that this was the case. The Secretary of State said he was also pleased by the announcement at the conclusion of the summit that Egypt and Israel were establishing committees to oversee Israel’s final withdrawal from Sinai next April.
Asked about the possible restriction on the use of the AWACS reconnaissance planes by Saudi Arabia, that would prevent them from using the planes against Israel, Haig replied: “I think that’s the wrong time and I think there are certain arrangements that will become known when consultations start on the Hill. We feel we have an obligation to discuss these matters with members of the Senate and the House. Until that time, we have urged everyone to hold their judgement on this admittedly controversial sale until they have the benefit of the full hearing that will be provided, which will include transfer agreements, which I must say today in the Executive branch we are very happy with it.”