First Round of Israeli-egyptian Talks End with Progress on Some Bilateral Issues, but Not on Taba

The first round of high level talks between Israel and Egypt ended in Cairo over the weekend with progress reported on some bilateral issues but none in the dispute over Taba, the strip of beach on the Gulf of Aqaba claimed by both Israel and Egypt.

The talks are expected to resume in about two weeks, in an Israel locale. The heads of the Israeli delegation, Foreign Ministry Director General David Kimche and Gen. Avraham Tamir, Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, returned from Cairo today. They had been there since Thursday, pressing the Egyptians for a compromise on the machinery for settling the Taba issue.

The 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty prescribes conciliation and arbitration of disputes between the two countries which cannot be resolved through negotiations. The Egyptians have been demanding that the Taba dispute be submitted to international arbitration with a deadline set in advance for a decision.

The Israelis are now proposing a mixed process of conciliation and arbitration which they contend would be less costly and time-consuming than arbitration and would allow the mutually agreed-upon arbitrator a greater degree of flexibility.

SEEKING COMPROMISE DECISION ON TABA

What Israel apparently seeks is a compromise decision on Taba which will give neither country all it demands, hopefully eliminating the tensions that could result from a decision that fully favored one side over the other. But the Egyptians remain adamant in their insistance on arbitration now.

Taba is only one issue in the “package deal” approach by which Israel hopes to settle all of its outstanding differences with Egypt. In the round of talks just ended, the Egyptians were said to have been very forthcoming on other bilateral matters. They were reported today to have agreed to the creation of joint teams to search for the bodies of Israeli soldiers still posted missing in Sinai 12 years after the Yom Kippur War.

Egypt has also agreed to pay several million dollars as its share toward rehousing some 5,000 Palestinians in the Sinai border town of Rafah who were made homeless when the town was divided between Egypt and Israel under the terms of the 1979 treaty.

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