WASHINGTON (Jan. 7)
Secretary of State Alexander Haig is going to Egypt and Israel next week to make a “personal assessment” of the status of the negotiations for autonomy for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the State Department said today.
Haig might then offer proposals to move the talks along, Department officials said. This might also include the naming of a special envoy for the negotiations, although State Department spokesman Dean Fischer said today that no decision has yet been made.
Fischer announced that Haig will be spending one more day than previously announced in the Middle East. Officially, this is to give him time for consultations with his staff, although apparently it is to allow him to spend more time in Egypt than originally planned. The Secretary will go to Cairo January 12 from Brussels where he will attend a NATO ministerial conference.
WILL MEET WITH BEGIN, MUBARAK
He will go to Israel from Egypt and leave for Washington January 15. He is scheduled to meet in Cairo with President Hosni Mubarak and in Jerusalem with Premier Menachem Begin. Originally, Haig was to have returned to Washington January 14.
The clue to whether a special envoy will be named may be revealed when it is announced who the Secretary plans to take with him on his Middle East trip. The names of those who will accompany him were not available today.
Fischer said Haig met this week with the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Alfred Atherton, and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Samuel Lewis, who were recalled to Washington to brief him on preparation for his visit to the Middle East. Both envoys reportedly returned to their posts today. Fischer also said that a meeting of the autonomy negotiators, on the working level, scheduled for Cairo this Sunday, was postponed at the request of the U.S. The reason given is that several members of the American team will be accompanying Haig.
When Fischer was asked why Haig is not going to Saudi Arabia in view of the postponement of Crown Prince Fahd’s scheduled January 19 visit to Washington, he replied that Haig’s trip to the Middle East next week is being narrowly focussed on the issue of autonomy.