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Haig: U.S. Military Personnel May Have to Participate in the Sinai Peacekeeping Force

March 19, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Secretary of State Alexander Haig informed Congress today that American military personnel may be required to participate in the international peacekeeping force in Sinai in support of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. He said the U.S. is now consulting with the Egyptian, Israeli and other governments about the composition of the force but he would not “pre-judge” the outcome.

Haig will discuss this problem in Cairo and Jerusalem when he visits the Middle East, beginning April 3. He suggested that Israel’s security requirements must be met to fulfill the terms of the Egyptian-Israeli treaty.

Under the Camp David agreements, the U.S. guaranteed that an international military force will be stationed for an indefinite period in Sharm el-Sheikh and in the northern reaches of Sinai when Israel withdraws from those areas in April, 1982. The U.S. agreed, under the Camp David formula, that if the United Nations Security Council does not provide such a force — now considered a dead letter in view of a certain Soviet veto — it would arrange for an international force itself.

According to the latest reports, the White House is preparing plans for a force of about 2000 men, half of whom would be Americans. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Fiji would contribute the remainder. Israel is insisting on American participation and on a force of about 4000 men. Egypt, on the other hand, is vehemently opposed to a U.S. force in the area, which includes the two Israeli air bases in northern Sinai and wants a force limited to several hundred men.

Appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today in defense of the Reagan Administration’s foreign assistance program for the coming fiscal year, Haig was told by Rep. Paul Findley (R. III) that he has “grave concern” about American forces in Sinai. “I see no prospect,” Haig told Findley, of a UN peacekeeping effort “being rejuvenated” because the initial effort “fell on the spear of a Soviet veto.”

He added, “This is a problem for the parties themselves to determine but I doubt seriously that Israel would ever withdraw from the Sinai without a peacekeeping force from which they could take security comfort.”

Haig said that while he shared Findley’s concern over Americans stationed there, he believes that “to support the peace process, to be sure Israel will be able from their own perspective to withdraw, to be sure that the concerns of Egypt are met, it may require some American participation in that peacekeeping force. But I don’t want to pre-judge it. We have a year in which to work it out and we are working at it now.”


With respect to the U.S. intention to supply Saudi Arabia with additional equipment for its 62 F-15 planes, Haig said it was “bipartisan” and that he had consulted with former Secretary of State Edmund Muskie and former Defense Secretary Harold Brown on the matter during the Presidential transition period. He said that additional equipment is a “necessary augmentation of Saudi defensive policy” and in support of American policy “because of a long unsettlement in Saudi Arabia with respect to American inconsistency as they viewed it.”

In that connection, Haig spoke of “our failure to stand up to Soviet inroads in countries around Saudi Arabia.”

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