Dispute Festering over Taba

Egypt has requested an explanation from the Israeli government of a statement attributed to Defense Minister Ariel Sharon that the disputed area of Taba in northern Sinai would remain under Israel’s control.

In an official memo submitted to the Israeli Ambassador here, Moshe Sasson, the Egyptian government also protested what it charged were Israeli violations of the agreement concluded between the two sides last April for maintaining the status quo in that area until the dispute was resolved. A similar protest was submitted several weeks ago.

Sharon told reporters during a visit to Taba last week that there would be no compromise over the territory south of Eilat. This prompted an angry reply from the Foreign Ministry spokesman here, who called Sharon’s statement “a further complication of the situation.” He added at the time that “Taba is and will remain an integral part of Egypt and we shall not relinquish any of it.”

The issue of Taba has been taken up with renewed vigor by the press here over the last few days, and some of the commentary has been particularly biting. In an editorial published yesterday, Al Akhbar asserted that “there is nothing which gives (Israel) even an issue or the right to differ on this subject.”

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