Trying to Salvage the Summit

The much-awaited summit meeting between Premier Shimon Peres and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which was to have taken place next week in Alexandria, appeared this week to be in danger of being delayed by last-minute technical snags between the two countries in negotiations over the arbitration agreement for Taba, the 25-acre Sinai beach front claimed by both Israel and Egypt.

David Kimche, the Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, held intensive meetings with top Egyptian officials and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy Thursday, in a last-ditch attempt to salvage the foundering summit.

Meanwhile, high-ranking Reagan Administration officials in Washington said Wednesday that Secretary of State George Shultz, reportedly disappointed with the lack of progress between Israel and Egypt, would not travel to the Middle East after all in an attempt to further efforts that could lead to peace talks.

Meeting in Cairo, Kimche had hoped to wrap up the arbitration document by early next week. The Egyptians have consistently maintained that a completed document must precede the September 10-11 summit.

Two problems delayed the signing of the document: designation of the borders of Taba and a list of three foreign arbitrators to join one Israeli and one Egyptian legal expert.

EGYPTIANS ACCUSED OF FOOT DRAGGING

Israeli officials asserted Thursday that the Egyptians dragged their feet in the talks with Kimche. Kimche claimed in a radio interview that the Egyptians had reneged on previously articulated positions. “I thought I could no longer be surprised in this long and arduous negotiation,” he said. “But the Egyptians have surprised me.”

Egypt, meanwhile, sent top Presidential aide Osama El-Baz to Amman, Jordan, Wednesday for urgent talks with King Hussein prior to the king’s departure for Europe. This was the latest in a series of high-level consultations by the two countries designed to evolve a common position on the Palestinian issue in advance of an Israeli-Egyptian summit.

Murphy was shuttling this week between Israel, Egypt and Jordan in what Peres said was an effort to explore prospects for a joint peace declaration.

Western diplomats in Tel Aviv have said that the United States hopes to persuade Hussein to endorse ideas that could form the basis of a joint statement at the Peres-Mubarak summit.

Peres told a journalists’ meeting Wednesday in Tel Aviv that the greatest obstacle for Jordan in the peace talks was determining which Palestinians should participate in a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. Both Israel and Jordan agreed that an international forum would accompany any direct negotiations, but that the forum would have no power to impose solutions on the Israel-Arab conflict.

The Premier described the summit meeting as trying to “formulate strategy for the next two or three years.”

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