Washington (Dec. 3)
The State Department today released a joint statement by the United States and Israel which said the participation by four European countries in the Sinai peacekeeping force is based only on the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and cannot be linked to the Venice declaration of the European Economic Community (EEC).
The statement, read by Department Deputy spokesman Alan Romberg, said that it was being issued after both Israel and the U.S. reviewed the “clarification” which Britain, France, Italy and The Netherlands sent the U.S. on Nov. 26.
The Europeans had originally linked their announcement on the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) which will patrol the Sinai after Israel’s final withdrawal next April with their support for the 1980 Venice declaration which calls for Palestinian self-determination and the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Middle East peace talks.
Today’s joint statement said that the European clarification explained “that they (the Europeans) recognize that the function of the MFO is as defined in the relevant Egyptian-Israeli agreements and includes that of insuring freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran …; and that they have attached no political conditions, linked to Venice or otherwise, to their participation.”
A senior State Department official, who briefed reporters on condition that his name not be used, said he believes the joint statement will “facilitate” the participation of the four countries in the Sinai force. He said that Leamon Hunt, a retired foreign service officer who has been named director general of the MFO, will go to the four countries to work out details of their participation.
The senior official stressed that the U.S. is committed to the Camp David process, including the ongoing negotiations for autonomy for Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He said the EEC’s Venice declaration “is not consistent with our view of what we are doing” through the Camp David process.
ELEMENTS IN THE JOINT STATEMENT
The Europeans are not apparently being required to renounce the Venice declaration but only not to use it in conjunction with their participation in the MFO. The joint U.S.-Israeli statement notes:
“The United States understands and appreciates the concerns expressed by the government of Israel regarding the statements made by the four European contributors in explaining their decision to participate in the MFO to their own legislatures and publics. The United States recognizes that some positions set forth in the statements are at variance with its own positions with respect to the future of the peace process as well as with positions held by Israel as a party to the Treaty of Peace.
“The United States and Israel recognize that the positions held on any other aspects of these problems in the area by any state which agrees to participate in the MFO do not affect the obligation of that state to comply fully with the terms of the protocol which was negotiated in accordance with the letter from President Carter to President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin of March 26, 1979, and which is designed to help implement the Treaty of Peace which was concluded pursuant to the Camp David accords.
“The Treaty of Peace in accordance with which the MFO is established represents the first step in a process agreed on at Camp David whose ultimate
goal is a just, comprehensive, and durable settlement of the Middle East conflict through the conclusion of peace treaties based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
“The U.S. and Israel reiterate their commitment to the Camp David accords as the only viable and ongoing negotiating process. They renew their determination to make early meaningful progress in the autonomy talks.”
The senior official stressed that the U.S. felt it was important to have the Europeans in the Sinai force because in order to implement and strengthen the Camp David process “as broadly based a peacekeeping force as possible was needed.” He said this was the view of not only the Administration but also of Congress. He noted that the Europeans agreed to join the force originally after talks with both Haig and President Reagan.
The official stressed that the joint statement is not a legal document since the MFO is based on an agreement signed between Israel and Egypt. He said a new agreement would require renegotiating between Egypt and Israel. He said Egypt was kept informed but did not participate in the talks leading to the statement.