Taba Talks Break Down Again As Egyptian Claims Insult

The chief Egyptian delegate stormed out of the Taba talks Tuesday following a “diplomatic incident” which had him furious and put the Israelis in an “apologetic mood.”

The head of the Israeli delegation, Yitzhak Lior, said there had been a misunderstanding.

But the Egyptian, Hassan Issa, declared he was insulted by the tone and behavior of the Israelis and would not return to the meetings.

Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu played down the incident, saying there are always “ups and downs” in negotiations.

The latest “down” followed a series of confrontations and differences over procedure during the past two weeks that have prevented the Israelis and Egyptians from agreeing on the few remaining issues in the Taba dispute.

The talks had seemed back on track Monday after successful mediation by the American observer team.

All seemed to be running smoothly until the Israelis decided to adjourn the meeting Tuesday afternoon without informing the Egyptians.

Issa and his delegation got the news from officers of the U.N. Multinational Observer Force in Sinai.

The Egyptians walked out, canceling their part in a tour of nearby Eilat and refusing to lunch at the Sonesta Hotel, which is Israeli owned and managed.

The crisis has not affected the parallel talks in Cairo.

Israelis and Egyptians there are negotiating Egypt’s purchase of the Sonesta Hotel and Rafi Nelson Vacation Village, Taba’s two resorts, and compensation to the Israel government for public works installed in the area.

Those negotiations will be resumed Wednesday.

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