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Eban Denies Washington Pressure to Make Concessions to Egypt on Negotiations

March 12, 1968
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Foreign Minister Eban tonight confirmed an earlier denial by a Foreign Ministry spokesman that the United States was pressuring Israel to relax its insistence on face-to-face talks with the Arabs as the only means of achieving peace in the Middle East. Mr. Eban. replying to a parliamentary question in the Knesset, said the report of such pressure, which appeared in the New York Times of March 6, was incorrect. “There have been no suggestions by Secretary of State Dean Rusk as to what form negotiations between Israel and Egypt should take,” Mr. Eban said.

He added that the U.S. Government had informed Israel that there had been “inaccuracies” which had caused a “misinterpretation” by the New York Times. The reference apparently was to information supplied The Times by U.S. official sources. The Times’ story, date-lined Cairo, alleged that the U.S. State Department was pressuring Israel on the issue of direct talks with the Arabs and had given the Egyptian Foreign Office the gist of a letter on the subject from Rusk to Eban. A Foreign Ministry spokesman here denied the story last week and said it was unthinkable that the State Department would disclose the contents of correspondence between the U.S. and Israel to a third party.

Mr. Eban officially reported to the Cabinet yesterday that Egypt would not negotiate directly with Israel and said he would, however, continue his talks with Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring, special UN envoy in the Middle East. Mr. Eban and Dr. Jarring had a meeting in Jerusalem yesterday after which the UN envoy returned to his Cyprus headquarters.

In reply to another question in the Knesset tonight, the Foreign Minister said that a statement by Israel’s Ambassador to Washington, Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, that Israel should not retain all of the Arab territory occupied in last June’s war, represented the Ambassador’s personal view. However, he said, it is not contrary to Israel’s official stand. The form that future borders between Israel and her neighbors will take can only be fixed by a peace settlement, Mr. Eban said, adding “whether they will follow the present cease-fire line or take some other shape is something that cannot now be foretold.”

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