U.S. Senior Official Predicts Peres-mubarak Summit Once Accord for Arbitrating Taba Dispute is Signe

A senior State Department official predicted last Thursday that there will be a summit meeting between Israeli Premier Shimon Peres and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak once the agreement for arbitrating the Taba dispute is signed.

Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, also said he expected the signing to lead to the “immediate return” of the Egyptian Ambassador to Israel.

His predictions were made to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East as he described the results of Vice President George Bush’s recent 10-day trip to Israel, Jordan and Egypt. Murphy, who accompanied Bush, remained for another week in the Mideast to work with the Israelis and Egyptians on the Taba dispute.

He said Thursday he expected the agreement on arbitration for the strip of land on the Gulf of Aqaba to be signed in about two or three weeks. He noted that the Israeli Inner Cabinet has approved the agreement and he said he expects the Egyptian Cabinet to do so too shortly.

The two-to-three-week period is needed for the two issues unsettled when Israel and Egypt agreed on arbitration last Sunday. Murphy said one was the selection of three names from a list of 30 international arbitrators supplied by the United States and the other was the work on the ground to stake out the disputed area.

Egypt has maintained that Israel should have included Taba when the Sinai was returned by Israel as part of the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement. The area is used by Israel as a resort.

IMPROVEMENT OF OVERALL RELATIONS SEEN

Murphy said that the agreement will serve not only to bring back Egypt’s Ambassador to Israel, removed after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, but to improve overall relations between the two countries. He said that improving the bilateral relations between the two countries could “help spur efforts” for the overall Mideast peace process.

When Rep. Lee Hamilton (D.-Ind.), the subcommittee’s chairman, asked what was the next step in the peace process, Murphy indicated that the U.S. was concentrating on Egyptian-Israeli relations. He noted that Bush’s trip was designed not only to move the peace process forward but to discuss bilateral issues with the three countries involved.

But. Rep. Tom Lantos (D.-Cal.) said the news reports about Bush’s trip were “embarrassing.” He said the trip’s purpose seemed to be to provide “photo opportunities” for the Vice President. But Murphy replied that Bush had “very serious, very intensive talks” in the three countries he visited. “I would call them productive,” he said.

NEXT STORY