U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Sterner arrived here from Egypt today to discuss the establishment of a multi-national peacekeeping force for Sinai after Israel completes its withdrawal from the peninsula in April, 1982. Sterner had two days of discussions on the subject in Cairo. His talks in Jerusalem are aimed at achieving progress toward an Israeli-Egyptian agreement by the time Secretary of State Alexander Haig visits the two countries early next month.
Under early next terms of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of March, 1979, the U.S. is committed to create a multi-national force if the establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping force proves to be impossible. Sterner observed on his arrival here:
“We have to make sure that a United Nations force is not available because that is what the treaty calls for in the first instance. I think we have to operate under the assumption that a UN force will not be available in the present circumstances and therefore the planning ought to continue for a multi-national force outside the UN framework.”
He was alluding to the virtual certainty that the Soviet Union will veto any resolution in the Security Council setting up a UN force to police Sinai. Sterner also said he would explore the possibility of utilizing the Sinai military and air bases to be evacuated by Israel by the multi-national force. “There is a possibility that the multi-national force would be able to use the facilities that are presently in Sinai” but “that, of course, would require the agreement of the parties,” Sterner said.
NOT SPECIFIC ABOUT FACILITIES
He said he would not “be specific” about the nature of the facilities. “We are going to look at them, see what is logical to be turned over; some of them obviously could be useful to the multi-national force,” he said.
Sterner emphasized that the facilities would not be used as American bases. “This is a peacekeeping force and any American participation in it will be in that context, ” he said. The question of the participation of American personnel in the multi-national force is one of the matters that is being discussed with Israeli and Egyptian officials. Israel reportedly favors an American presence.
Israel has been pressing the U.S. in recent months to move expeditiously to create the force and has stated flatly that it would not be able to withdraw from Sinai a year from now unless the peacekeeping force is ready to take over by then. Israel is also said to insist on a large force, about 4000 men, to police the strategic area from Sharm el-Sheikh to northeastern Sinai which abuts on Israel’s borders and controls access to the Straits of Tiran.
Egypt reportedly favors a force of no more than several hundred men. Cairo’s attitude toward American participation is not know but Egypt has flatly rejected Israeli suggestions that the U.S. take over the three Sinai airfields. Several countries have been approached by Egypt to contribute personnel to the Sinai force, among them Australia and the Scandinavian countries. All have ruled out participation unless the force is under UN auspices. At the moment, only the U.S. is prepared to contribute personnel.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.