Washington (Oct. 12)
Secretary of State Alexander Haig urged Israel not to increase its settlements on the West Bank while the autonomy negotiations with Egypt are in process.
Haig, in Egypt for President Anwar Sadat’s funeral, said he was assured by President-elect Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin of their willingness to move ahead in the autonomy talks which will be resumed Oct. 21. “We would hope that during this process there would not be a further enlargement of the West Bank settlements and we made that clear,” Haig said in an interview from Cairo on the NBC-TV “Meet the Press” program yesterday.
Richard Allen, President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, in an interview on the CBS-TV “Face the Nation” program yesterday also said the Administration does not consider the West Bank settlements to “be helpful.” He added that the Administration continues not to have any comment on their legality.
But both Haig and Allen stressed that the most important outcome following Sadat’s death by assassination last Tuesday is that Mubarak and Begin pledged to continue the autonomy talks. Haig stressed that the U.S. was a “full partner” in these talks and said it will “raise the level” of its representatives at the talks if that was deemed necessary. At present, the
U.S is represented at the autonomy talks by its Ambassadors to Egypt and Israel respectively, Alfred Atherton and Samuel Lewis.
Haig said that he told Begin and Mubarak in Cairo that there was a need to “strip aside certain inflexibilities of the past” in order to reach a settlement on autonomy for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He indicated that both leaders agreed.
EXPLAINS ‘FOREMOST’ FRIEND STATEMENT
The Secretary of State denied that his statement Saturday that Egypt was America’s “foremost” friend in the Middle East downgrades Israel’s position with the U.S. He said the historic American commitment to Israel was “clear, unique and unchallengeable” and that he could foresee no circumstances under which this would change.
When Allen was asked about Haig’s statement he said the Secretary meant that Egypt was America’s foremost friend among the “moderate Arab nations.”
AWACS SALE STRESSED
Both Haig and Allen continued to call for Congressional approval of the sale of AWACS reconnaissance aircraft and other advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia. Both stressed that if the U.S. does not make the sale, the Saudis could obtain similar equipment from other countries. Haig said that in his talks in Cairo with Egyptian and other Arab leaders and with representatives of America’s West European allies, all expressed “concern” that Congress might reject the AWACS sale.
He denied that he had asked Begin to drop his opposition to the arms package for the Saudis. He repeated that Begin has the “right and obligation” to express the view of the government and people of Israel in opposition to the sale. “But his (Begin) responsibilities are not America’s responsibilities. Ours are broader,” Haig said.
Vice President George Bush said last week that the U.S., “having lost a great friend” in the death of Sadat, must now “honor a commitment to another friend in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia” by selling it the promised five AWACS and other military equipment. Speaking at the National Press Club Thursday, Bush said “No single foreign policy matter on the immediate agenda is more important than this sale — especially now.” He maintained that this was the key to the Reagan Administration’s broad Middle East strategy.
SEES SAUDI-EGYPTIAN AMITY
Although Saudi Arabia sent no representative to Sadat’s funeral, Haig said he was confident of a rapprochement between the Saudis and the new Mubarak government. He said there was a strong possibility of this “because of a convergence of strategic outlook and mutuality of interests between the two regimes.” Haig said Saudi opposition to the Camp David agreements may have been caused by the “American style” during the Carter Administration in which, he claimed, there was a lack of consultation.
Haig was not asked about former President Nixon’s visit to Saudi Arabia immediately after attending Sadat’s funeral. But Allen, when asked about it, stressed that it was a “private visit.” Reporters noted that no one knew about it before Nixon left for Riyadh.