JERUSALEM (Nov. 2)
Egypt lodged a formal complaint with Israel today over the opening of a resort hotel in the disputed Taba area near Eilat. But Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali played down the issue as a "technical" matter involving the final delineation of the border between Israel and Sinai.
The Sonesta hotel opened for business yesterday despite Egyptian protests. A gala formal opening is scheduled in two weeks. The Egyptians charged today that the opening breached the Israeli-Egyptian agreement that Taba should remain a no-man’s land until the border dispute is settled. That agreement was reached just before Israel completed its withdrawal from Sinai last April.
But according to Israel’s interpretation of the agreement, life was to continue normally in the area, including completion of the hotel which was then under construction.
Negotiations over the final status of Taba, a few acres of beachfront on the Gulf of Aqaba, were suspended when Israel invaded Lebanon last June. Israel has expressed willingness to resume them but only an condition that the autonomy talks with Egypt and the normalization process are resumed simultaneously and that Egypt return its Ambassador to Tel Aviv.
Hassan Ali said on a television interview last night that the linkage demanded by Israel was totally unacceptable.