Cabinet Ratifies Accord with Egypt to Submit Taba Dispute to Arbitration

The Cabinet Sunday formally ratified an agreement with Egypt to submit the Taba border dispute to international arbitration. It rejected pre-conditions proposed by Minister of Commerce and Industry Ariel Sharon.

The arbitration panel, consisting of three international jurists and one representative each from Israel and Egypt, will convene in Geneva later this month. The agreement was reached last September to resolve the issue by arbitration, favored by Egypt, instead of conciliation, preferred by Israel. It followed more than a year of on-again-off-again negotiations that failed to settle the dispute.

The Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979 provides for either arbitration or conciliation in cases where the two countries cannot reach bilateral agreement. Sharon demanded that before the arbitration instrument was signed, Egypt lift all restrictions on tourism to Israel, close the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Cairo and pay compensation to the families of seven Israeli tourists killed by a berserk Egyptian soldier at Ras Burka in eastern Sinai last year.

The Foreign Ministry said the compensation issue is under negotiation with Egypt. The two governments will exchange the ratified arbitration documents prior to the start of the process in Geneva. The panel will be headed by Judge Gunnar Lagergren of Sweden. The other members from outside the region are Dietrich Schindler, a Swiss law professor, and Pierre Bellet, an international lawyer from France.

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