Washington (Oct. 13)
The State Department denied today that the U.S. has been urging Israel to make its final withdrawal from Sinai earlier than the scheduled April date as a gesture to the new Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak.
“There are no plans for an acceleration of the schedule,” Department spokesman Dean Fischer said. He was commenting on a statement by Secretary of State Alexander Haig on the ABC-TV “Good Morning America” program this morning that the U.S. is “now trying to re-inject some momentum” into the Camp David process.
Haig said, “We have been able to do so, both in the Sinai withdrawal schedule and the provisions for that and the resumption of the autonomy talks and the normalization talks which will continue this very month without any delay despite President Sadat’s untimely death.”
Fischer said he was “not aware” that the subject of accelerating the Sinai withdrawal schedule “was raised” when Haig met with Israeli Premier Menachem Begin in Cairo at Sadat’s funeral last Saturday. Fischer said Haig was stressing the need to “re-inject some momentum,” noting that the autonomy talks which were moribund since last year, will now resume at the working level Oct. 21. Fischer said that after these talks, the U.S. will make an assessment as to whether to upgrade the level of its representation at the talks. Should this be done, however, the American representative will not be Philip Habib, President
Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East. Fischer said that when Habib returns to the region, it will be to continue his efforts in Lebanon for which Reagan brought him out of retirement last May.
Morris Draper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, is now in the region as a “prelude to Habib’s return,” Fischer said. Draper is visiting Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, according to the spokesman. But he had no explanation as to why Draper was not going to Saudi Arabia except that it was not in his itinerary.
NIXON, SAUDIS ‘NOT TALKING ABOUT PIPER CUBS’
Former President Nixon is now in Saudi Arabia, having gone there immediately after attending Sadat’s funeral in Cairo, on what he said was a private visit. When Nixon’s spokesman was asked in Riyadh today if the former President had discussed the proposed sale of AWACS reconnaissance planes with Saudi officials, he reportedly replied, “They were not talking about Piper Cubs.” But Nixon, who will also visit Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco before returning to the U.S. next week, will have no comment on his talks until after he returns, his spokesman said.
Fischer also said that Nixon is not reporting to the Reagan Administration while he is abroad but will presumably make a report when he returns. An Administration official was quoted yesterday as saying that Nixon was not specifically asked to report on his trip “but that’s the usual thing.”
The Administration says it knew nothing of Nixon’s travel plans until he requested — and received — a State Department briefing on the four countries he intended to visit last Thursday, before he left for Sadat’s funeral in Cairo.
HAIG PRESSES FOR AWACS SALE
Meanwhile, Haig continued to press for the AWACS sale on his television appearance this morning. He said the loss of Sadat “makes our relationships with Saudi Arabia more, not less important in the days ahead.” He said that while in Cairo he found that “there wasn’t a Middle East leader” or a European leader “who didn’t register their grave concern that the American Congress might once again fail to support its President in the conduct of his foreign policy.”
CARTER URGES SALE OF AWACS
Meanwhile, former President Carter, visiting Washington for the first time since he left office nine months ago, made public yesterday the text of a letter he had sent to Senators urging them to support Reagan’s proposed sale of the AWACS and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia.
Carter told reporters, “It’s very important that once a President makes a commitment of that kind to a valuable friend, such as the Saudi Arabians, that the Senate approve what their President has proposed … A lot of foreign countries can’t understand the intricacies of American law, and they look upon a promise as a commitment on the part of our nation.”
Carter added, “Because of that and the peaceful attitude of the Saudi people, the fact that an AWACS capability is already there, assigned by me during the Iranian crisis, I believe it would be better to approve the AWACS sale.”
Carter’s letter to the Senators said that the sale would contribute to Israel’s security and to Middle East peace. “I always found the Saudi Arabian leaders to be staunch friends of our country. They are strong and influential moderates in an area where moderation is vital in circumscribing fanaticism and violence,” Carter said in his letter.
EEC IN NEW MIDEAST EFFORT
In another development, British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington announced today that he planned to go to Saudi Arabia shortly as an emissary of the European Economic Community (EEC) in a new effort to further peace in the Middle East. He said the decision was made after a meeting of the EEC Foreign Ministers to discuss the impact of Sadat’s death. The EEC’s search for a mediating role in the Arab-Israeli conflict will continue, Carrington said.
He said the Foreign Ministers had expressed their “determination to remain active in the spirit of our past declarations, in particular, the Venice declaration” of June, 1980. In that document, the EEC maintained that the Palestine Liberation Organization must be “associated” with the Mideast peace process.
ISRAEL REJECTS PLAN ON CONTACT WITH PLO
Former Presidents Carter and Ford made similar assertions to reporters aboard a U.S. Air Force jet returning them to Washington after Sadat’s funeral. They said that the U.S. eventually would have to talk to the PLO if a Middle East peace is to be achieved. The Israeli government promptly rejected the suggestion. In a statement attributed only to “Israeli officials”, the government said:
“The timing of these statements (by Ford and Carter) is especially inappropriate coming so soon after the PLO expressed its joy over the assassination of President Sadat. At a time when there should be general support for the peace process in the Middle East, statements such as these can only encourage the PLO and other rejectionist factors in their struggle against peace in the Middle East.”
REAGAN REAFFIRMS U.S. POLICY ON PLO
President Reagan reaffirmed yesterday the longstanding U.S. policy not to have any contact with the PLO until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist. “There would be a condition, always has been,” Reagan said. “There never has been any refusal to talk with the PLO. There has been only one condition: until they would recognize the right of Israel to exist as a nation which they still have never done.”