NEW YORK (Oct. 20)
The United States and the Soviet Union appeared to be as far apart as ever on a solution of the Middle East cease-fire impasse following last night’s working meeting between Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. According to well informed sources, there is no agreement at the moment and none is imminent over rectification of the alleged cease-fire violations by Egypt in the standstill truce zone. The sources said that no new proposals for rectification were brought up at the Rogers-Gromyko meeting–their second since last Friday–and no compromise formulas are in the making on the Middle East. There was however a hint that the U.S. may have retreated in its stand on rectification. According to a knowledgeable source, the U.S. continues to insist on “rectification or acknowledgment” by the Russians and Egyptians that cease-fire violations have indeed taken place. The either-or formulation carries the inference that the U.S. might be willing to settle for a “confession of sin” by the Egyptians and their Soviet backers in place of a concrete rectification of the cease-fire violations. American spokesmen have declined to define publicly what they mean by the term “rectification.” In some quarters it has been taken to mean a token removal of some missiles from the standstill truce zone.
Secretary Rogers described his latest talks with the Soviet Foreign Minister as “useful” and said the atmosphere was “good.” Asked by newsmen if he thought the meeting would facilitate solution. Mr. Rogers replied that “like any meeting it seemed to clear minds.” No further meetings between the two diplomats have been scheduled before Mr. Gromyko returns to Moscow next week. But Mr. Rogers will be present when Foreign Minister Gromyko meets with President Richard M. Nixon on Thursday. That meeting, requested by Mr. Gromyko, is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the White House, Dr. Henry Kissinger, the President’s chief foreign policy advisor and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin will also attend. The meeting is expected to be devoted to the Middle East, Berlin and other matters at issue between the superpowers. According to informed sources the Russian stand at the moment is that they have nothing to do with alleged missile movements in the Suez truce zone, that it is purely an Egyptian matter and that no violations have occurred. The Russians, like the Egyptians, are agreeable to an extension of the 90-day cease-fire beyond its Nov. 5 expiration date, but only on condition that the Jarring peace talks are resumed. Israel insists that it will return to the talks only after the cease-fire situation is restored to the status quo ante of Aug. 7.
According to most observers, this impasse is not likely to be resolved before Nov. 5. However, they expect the cease-fire to be continued on a de facto day-to-day basis. Each side has said that it will not be the first to start shooting. (Israeli Foreign Ministry circles in Jerusalem said yesterday that Israeli forces would abstain from shooting on the basis of the Security Council’s June, 1967 cease-fire resolution that ended the Six-Day War but would not continue to adhere to the Aug. 7 cease-fire. The practical result would be the same but there is an important legal difference from the Israeli point of view. According to that view, the current cease-fire can be extended only if the pre-Aug. 7 military status quo is restored.) The U.S. meanwhile is reportedly trying to forestall an acrimonious debate in the General Assembly on the Mideast. Secretary Rogers is said to have tried to convince Mr. Gromyko that such a debate would be injurious to the Jarring talks which the Russians, presumably, are anxious to have resumed. The debate was placed on the General Assembly agenda at the request of Egypt. Cairo is said to hope that it will lead to passage of a new Mideast resolution inimical to Israel. A General Assembly resolution requires a two-third majority for passage and does not have the legal status to supercede the Security Council’s Mideast Resolution 242 of Nov. 22, 1967. But it could undermine the authority of Resolution 242 which is the basis of the current cease-fire and of all peace-making efforts in the Mideast.