International Arbitration on Taba Border Dispute Begins in Geneva

International arbitration of the Israeli-Egyptian border dispute over Taba was formally begun here Wednesday and hailed by the chief delegates of both countries as proof of the workability of their 1979 peace treaty and the importance of resolving such issues by legal means. Both sides pledged to abide by the ruling of the arbitrators which is not expected until 1988.

The formal opening at the historic Geneva Town Hall was a ceremonial occasion attended by the five-member arbitration panel, the full Israeli and Egyptian delegations and the Vice President of the Geneva State Council.

The process actually began on Monday when the Israelis and Egyptians exchanged documents ratified by their respective governments agreeing to arbitration. They remained at a villa in the village of Genthoux, near Geneva, to work out procedural matters.

Robi Sabel head of the Israeli delegation, noted in his opening speech that “All the nations in the world will be following with fascination the successful implementation of Article VII of the (Camp David) peace treaty and will be awaiting its outcome with expectation.” The arbitration process, he said, “bears witness to the workability and efficiency of the (peace) treaty and will show that disagreement between the two countries can be peacefully resolved by legal means.”

The Egyptian chief delegate, Nabil el-Araby, stressed Egypt’s desire to reach a “peaceful settlement of international disputes in accordance with international law. This is the only way to achieve a lasting peace,” he said.

Taba is a strip of beach on the Red Sea near Eilat claimed by both Israel and Egypt. Israel has already built a resort hotel on the site and Sabel noted in his speech its economic importance for the development of Eilat and the entire southern Negev.

El-Araby recalled that the opening ceremonies coincide with the sixth anniversary of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and former Israeli Premier Menachem Begin on December 10, 1980, for their roles in establishing peace between their countries.

Since then, Israel and Egypt had attempted for years to reach a bilateral settlement of the Taba dispute, without success. On September 11, 1986, they signed a document at Giza, near Cairo, to set up a court of arbitration.

The five international jurists who will hear and study the claims of both sides are Gunnar Lagergren of Sweden, President of the Court; Pierre Bellet of France; Dieterich Schindler of Switzerland; Ruth Lapidot of Israel, and Hamed Sultan of Egypt.

The process will be a lengthy one. The Israeli and Egyptian delegates left for home after the ceremonies. Next May 13, each country will submit a memorandum to the panel and to each other. Five months later, on October 13, the two side will exchange counter-proposals. Some time in the winter of 1987-88, the panel will visit Taba and afterwards commence deliberations on their ruling.

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