Final Phase of Taba Arbitration Opens with Israeli Presentation

The final phase of the arbitration process that will determine ownership of 14 disputed sites along the Israeli-Sinai border, including the half-square-mile Taba resort area on the Red Sea, opened here Monday.

The preliminary session was brief. Israel displayed a videotape film of the Taba area. There was a short procedural discussion after which the meeting was adjourned to reconvene Tuesday.

Egypt will present its case for the next three days, and after a three-day interval, the Israelis will present theirs, which is expected to last four days. Both sides will present witnesses. Their names have not yet been released to the press.

Israel and Egypt will both present visual arguments, including slides, maps and, in Israel’s case, a plaster scale model of the Taba area.

The presentations will last until March 28, to allow a break for the Passover-Easter holidays. The sessions will resume April 12 for one week. After that, the arbitration panel will adjourn to deliberate and write its report, which may take several months.

The panel, made up of five distinguished international jurists, is headed by Judge Gunnar Lagergren of Sweden.

The other members are Pierre Bellet of France, Dietrich Schindler of Switzerland, Ruth Lapidot of Israel and Hamdi Sultan of Egypt. The Israeli delegation includes 28 experts and legal advisers headed by Robi Sabel, legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry.

Binding arbitration is one of the means of settling disputes between Israel and Egypt under the terms of their 1979 peace treaty. So is conciliation–compromise. But after a year of failed attempts at conciliation, Israel went along with Egypt’s insistence on arbitration.

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