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Egyptian High Official’s Visit to Israel is Deemed As Significant

Israeli officials had little of substance to report after a day of talks here with a senior Egyptian diplomat.

But they said that the visit of Shafi Abdel-Hamid, an Assistant Secretary of State at the Foreign Ministry in Cairo, was significant in itself since no official of this rank had visited Israel in a year and a half.

Abdel-Hamid told reporters that “the dialogue will continue in order to achieve common goals.” The talks were continuing tonight over dinner in Tel Aviv. Abdel-Hamid is due to fly home tomorrow.

His visit reciprocates a trip to Cairo last month by Foreign Ministry Director-General David Kimche and Legal Adviser Elyakim Rubinstein at which the political dialogue between the two countries, frozen for months, was resumed.

DEEPLY TROUBLED OVER THE COLD PEACE

But Israel is still deeply troubled over the cold peace, as Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs Butros Ghali has termed it. Premier Yitzhak Shamir expressed Israel’s concerns to Abdel-Hamid today, arguing that warm relations between Israel and Egypt would be the best way to attract other Arab parties to join the peace process.

Abdel-Hamid contended that the meeting in Cairo last week between President Hosni Mubarak and PLO leader Yasir Arafat was designed to bring about an expansion of the peace process to include other parties. He did not specifically mention the PLO.

But Shamir asserted firmly and repeatedly that Israel could not and would not negotiate with the PLO. He urged Egypt to agree to a prompt resumption of the long-moribund autonomy talks.

Abdel-Hamid, for his part recited his government’s unswerving commitment to the Camp David accords and the peace process, but he evinced little interest in Shamir’s proposal that the autonomy talks start up again.

Shamir said peace without normal relations was “not complete peace” and pointed out that the absence of the Egyptian ambassador from Tel Aviv for more than a year was “not normal.”

Israeli sources were “not acrimonious” but it was clear that “this was not a negotiating forum… at which outstanding issues would be resolved,” they said.

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