Israel Hopes Talks Will Resume on Settling Taba Land Dispute

Talks between Israel and Egypt aimed at reaching a compromise on the Taba land dispute will continue, Israeli officials said Wednesday, a day after negotiations in Cairo broke down.

Differences among Israeli negotiators are reportedly to blame in part for the breakdown of the talks in Cairo, which were aimed at reaching a compromise before an international panel of arbitrators issues its binding verdict next month.

The panel is expected to grant Egypt sovereignty over the two-square-mile beachfront area, which is now an Israeli vacation resort. But the arbitrators have agreed to withhold their decision if the two countries achieve a separate compromise.

The Israeli delegation to Cairo, which arrived there Monday, returned to Israel Tuesday night, following two days of hard bargaining. During the talks, the Egyptians made it clear that they would not settle for less than full sovereignty over the tiny border enclave.

However, they said that if Israel publicly accepted their demand, they would then be prepared to consider special access rights for Israeli nationals.

But the differences within the ranks of the Israeli delegation itself marred the bargaining process sufficiently to send the group home.

Avraham Tamir, director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and Professor Shimon Shamir, Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, were deeply offended that they had been excluded from a meeting between delegation head Yossi Ben-Aharon and Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid.

Ben-Aharon is director general of the Prime Minister’s Office and a close aide to Premier Yitzhak Shamir of the Likud bloc. Tamir is a close aide to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who heads the Labor Party.

Tamir, meanwhile, reportedly turned down an invitation to meet Wednesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Meguid, claiming that as a member of the Israeli delegation, he was obligated to return with the group to Israel.

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