JERUSALEM (Jun. 19)
Israel has decided to reopen negotiations with Egypt aimed at reaching a compromise over their border dispute at Taba.
Robbie Sabel, legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, was dispatched Sunday to Geneva, where he will ask an international judicial panel arbitrating the dispute to delay issuing its binding decision, which is expected by September.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, meeting before Sunday’s regular Cabinet session, decided on the move. They reportedly favor new talks in the region, orchestrated by the United States.
The United States has been working behind the scenes for a compromise solution, even though the arbitration panel has already heard formal arguments of both sides and is now preparing a decision.
State Department legal adviser Abraham Sofaer shuttled between Israel and Egypt this spring toward that end. His proposal was accepted by the Egyptians, but not by Israel.
Unconfirmed news reports said Sabel would be flying to Washington to meet with Sofaer and the Egyptian representative to the Taba negotiations, Nabil al-Arabi.
The Taba dispute was submitted to the international arbitration panel in March, after more than a year of hearings in Geneva. Its verdict can be postponed at the request of both parties.
The dispute centers around a half-mile strip of beach outside of Eilat, on the Sinai border. The tract of land has become a popular vacation spot, where Israeli entrepreneurs have built a luxury hotel and resort village.
Sofaer’s plan would vest sovereignty of Taba with Egypt. But Israel would be endowed with rights of access to the area.