U.S. Believes Egypt Will Return Its Envoy to Israel Once the Accord on Taba is Signed

The United States believes that once Egypt and Israel sign an agreement, approved Sunday, for the arbitration of their dispute over Taba, Egypt will return its Ambassador to Israel. This view was indicated Monday by State Department deputy spokesman Charles Redman as he called the compromise, or agreement for arbitration, “a positive step.”

“It brings us significantly closer to resolution of the dispute between Egypt and Israel over their common boundary, including Taba,” Redman said. “This achievement reflects a genuine spirit of cooperation on the part of the Egyptian and Israeli negotiators.”

Redman said the compromise would be signed after it was approved by the Israeli and Egyptian governments. He said the two countries still had to work out the names of the three arbitrators and a technical annex outlining the boundaries of the 25-acre strip on the Gulf of Aqaba. “We are hopeful that this work will be completed within a short period of time,” Redman said.

Redman noted that the U.S. had participated in the negotiations. Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, who was in Israel Monday, had acted as a mediator between Israel and Egypt for the last several days. He had accompanied Vice President George Bush on his 10-day visit to the Mideast, but remained behind after Bush returned to Washington last week, to work on the Taba issue.

The absence of an Egyptian Ambassador in Israel has been a sore point with Israel and is a basic reason for its cool relations with Egypt. The Egyptian Ambassador was recalled after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982.

Egypt has listed as conditions for the envoy’s return, not only agreement on arbitration for Taba, but complete Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and improved conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

“The Egyptian government has said it will return its Ambassador to Israel promptly upon signature of the compromise,” Redman said. “This has been a standing position of the Egyptian government.” However, he admitted that the Egyptians have not said anything about returning their envoy since the agreement was reached Sunday.

Meanwhile, Redman had no comment when asked whether the U.S. could draw any conclusions for Lebanon from the Israeli-Egyptian agreement.

Nor did he have any specific comment on the Israeli air raids against Palestinian terrorist targets in south Lebanon. Instead, he repeated the often stated U.S. position that “The United States deplores the continuing cycle of violence in the south of Lebanon. We have long supported agreed-on security arrangements between Lebanon and Israel that could ensure security and stability for south Lebanon and northern Israel.”

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