NEW YORK (Sep. 25)
Foreign Minister Abdel Meguid of Egypt told Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel yesterday that Egypt is interested in improving its relations with Israel. But he made it clear that Israel’s continued presence in Lebanon is an obstacle in that direction.
The meeting between Shamir and Meguid, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, was originally planned to last 45 minutes but instead lasted 90 minutes. It was the first Israeli-Egyptian contact on the foreign ministerial level since the Egyptians recalled their Ambassador from Tel Aviv in September, 1982, during the war in Lebanon. The meeting was requested by Israel. Two years ago, Egypt refused a similar request by Israel.
The issue of Egypt’s continued refusal to return its Ambassador to Israel was raised at yesterday’s meeting. According to Shamir’s spokesman, Avi Pazner, the Israeli Foreign Minister told Meguid that Lebanon should not constitute an obstacle to improved relations between their two countries.
“We want to leave Lebanon, but we first seek security measures for our northern border,” Shamir reportedly said, adding that Israel sees no reason why the Egyptian Ambassador should not return to Israel. Shamir claimed that Egypt and Israel do not have ideological differences regarding Lebanon because Israel is willing to leave Lebanon. “It is only a technical matter,” Shamir told Meguid.
ISSUES OF TABA, PALESTINIANS DISCUSSED
During the meeting, which Shamir’s spokesman described as “friendly and honest,” two other major issues were brought up: the controversy over Taba, a disputed territory near Eilat presently held by Israel, and the Palestinian question.
Shamir said that the Taba issue concerns a tiny territory of only 900 square meters. He said that Israel has returned to Egypt more than 65,000 square kilometers in the Sinai and it is hard for him to understand why Egypt engages in a major dispute over the small territory of Taba. He said the issue could be resolved through negotiations.
As for the Palestinian problem, Shamir said that Israel is ready to resume the autonomy negotiations with Egypt, Jordan and Palestinian representatives from the West Bank, in line with the Camp David accords.
“Israel is not satisfied by the present relations between Egypt and Israel. We are not satisfied with the present cold peace, ” Shamir told Meguid. He said that one of the goals of the new Israeli government is to improve relations with Egypt.
Shamir’s spokesman said that the two Foreign Ministers did not set a date for a new meeting. “We hope, however, that other meetings on the same level will continue in the future,” Pazner said.
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