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Israel Ready to Resume Talks with Egypt over Taba Region

The Cabinet indicated today that Israel is ready to resume negotiations with Egypt over the Toba region, a small parcel of land near Eilat which has been in dispute between the two countries since Israel completed its withdrawal from Sinai last April.

But the Cabinet also made it clear that Israel wants the Taba negotiations to be conducted simultaneously with a discussion of other subjects of mutual interest to the two countries, meaning the autonomy talks and the normalization process.

Israel also demands the immediate return of the Egyptian Ambassador, Saad Mortada, who was recalled from Tel Aviv last month in an expression of Cairo’s anger over the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in west Beirut.

The Cabinet devoted much of its weekly session today to a discussion of Israeli-Egyptian relations. The ministers were briefed by Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir who received a letter from his Egyptian counterpart, Kamal Hassan Ali, calling for immediate resumption of the Taba negotiations.

EGYPTIAN F.M. SENDS LETTER TO SHULTZ

(Hassan Ali also sent a letter to Secretary of State George Shultz asking that the U.S. join the negotiations over the disputed territory, it was reported last Friday by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Washington bureau chief, David Friedman. State Department spokesman John Hughes, confirming the Egyptian request, said the U.S. “believes it is important to resolve the Taba issue as soon as possible.” He refused to make any other comment on the issue which escalated last week when Cairo objected to the opening of on Israeli resort hotel on the disputed land.)

The Cabinet discussed relations with Egypt in light of anti-Israel statements attributed to Hassan Ali recently and reports that President Hosni Mubarak has agreed to meet with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat. Mubarak hitherto has shunned the PLO leader.

Meanwhile, Hassan Ali declared yesterday that Egypt was still committed to the peace agreement with Israel. He said Egypt chose peace with Israel as a strategic choice but would not return its Ambassador until Israel’s intentions are known “beyond the Lebanese subject.” Israel, for its part, believes that the impending negotiations for withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon would be the appropriate time for the Egyptian envoy to return to Tel Aviv.

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