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American Envoy Presents Plan to Resolve Taba Border Dispute

May 2, 1988
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The United States is working urgently to achieve an 11th-hour compromise agreement between Israel and Egypt before their dispute over Taba is resolved by binding arbitration.

Abraham Sofaer, the U.S. State Department’s legal adviser, met with Israeli officials here Sunday, after talks he had in Cairo. He reportedly has come up with a plan that would give Egypt sovereignty over Taba, a half-acre strip of beach near Eilat on the Red Sea. But, according to the plan, Israel would continue to operate two vacation resorts built there by Israeli entrepreneurs.

The resorts are the Avia Sonesta, a luxury hotel, and the Rafi Nelson Holiday Village. Sofaer reportedly has suggested that Egypt and Israel own the hotels jointly through a holding company.

The initial response he had from Israel’s Foreign Ministry seemed favorable, but the Prime Minister’s Office was less enthusiastic.

Taba is the most important of 14 disputed sites along the Israel-Sinai border. Arbitration hearings were concluded in Geneva last month and an international panel of five jurists is presently deliberating its decision. The panel has 90 days, but informed sources say it will issue its ruling by the end of this month.

The United States has been seeking a compromise agreement, so far without success. Sofaer is expected to meet with Israeli officials Monday on the terms of his draft proposals and then plans to return to Cairo for more talks.

There are two problems to overcome. Egyptian law forbids foreign companies from owning property in Egypt. The resorts at Taba would have to be owned at least 51 percent by Egypt in order to comply. The Israeli owners object.

The second problem is that Israeli visitors to the resorts would have to carry Egyptian visas. Sofaer reportedly has proposed that this requirement be waived, or applied only to guests staying longer than 48 hours.

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