Egypt Extends Official Welcome to Reagan’s Mideast Initiative

Egypt has extended an official welcome to the Reagan Middle East peace initiative, according to a report by the state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA). The position of the Egyptian government was conveyed to U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz in a letter submitted yesterday to the U.S. Ambassador in Cairo by Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali.

Egypt had previously stated that it saw positive elements in the Reagan initiative, but the message sent to Shultz would be the first official Egyptian response to the plan.

According to the MENA report, the letter also expresses reservations about some aspects of the plan and requests that a number of its points be clarified.

The communication to Shultz coincided with the arrival yesterday of British Foreign Minister Francis Pym in Cairo, where he discussed the Reagan initiative and other proposals for a Middle East settlement with President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ali.

SAYS CAIRO, DAMASCUS AGREE ON REAGAN PLAN

In a press conference this morning, Pym said that although the Egyptians had a “number of reservations on matters of details,” he discovered in Cairo “an absolute determination to found a peace making process on the Reagan initiative.” He added, in response to a question, that he found no significant difference between the approach of Cairo and that of Damascus to the Reagan plan. Pym held talks in Syria before travelling here yesterday.

“I think (the Syrians) are approaching it in a very wise way,” the Foreign Minister said, noting that Syria might participate in a delegation of Arab League representatives to Washington where they will consult with U.S. officials on the initiative later this month.

“President Mubarak,” Pym said, “is totally clear that this is the right basis on which to proceed. The Syrians take a more reserved view about it and they wish to discuss it with the heads of state of other Arab countries in Washington, before they come to a conclusion….. In other words, they are taking a very considered approach and I believe that’s a very wise way to proceed.”

In an interview published yesterday in Egypt’s leading newspaper, Al Ahram; Pym called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon as a prerequisite to any negotiations to settle the Mideast conflict and said Reagan’s plan closely resembles the position of the European Economic Community as it was expressed in the Venice declaration of June, 1980. That declaration included a call for the PLO to be “associated” with the Mideast peace negotiations.

SEES NO CHANGE IN DAMASCUS OR ISRAEL

With regard to the Syrian stance on negotiating with Israel, Pym acknowledged that he found no change of positions in Damascus. But he said the Syrians view was that “if, as they hope there is going to be, a peaceful solution can be achieved, then that solution will be with someone, and therefore, in that sense, they acknowledged the existence of Israel.”

In his discussions with Mubarak and Ali, Pym said he found his country and Egypt at one with respect to their aims of seeing a strong and independent Lebanon, self-determination for the Palestinians and security for all parties.

He added that both Egypt and Britain also found “the need for Israel to change her attitude and behavior.” Noting the support the Reagan plan has among Israel’s opposition, and in the Jewish communities of England and the U.S., Pym said, in response to a question, that he hoped “wiser counsel will prevail,” and that Israel would reconsider the American plan.

Speaking on other Middle East developments, the Foreign Minister expressed satisfaction over the meeting between PLO chief Yasir Arafat and King Hussein of Jordan this week. But he said their would be no meeting between himself and the PLO chief in the near future. “First we want them to play their part,” Pym said, “in recognizing the rights of Israel and the existence of Israel, and abandoning terrorism.”

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