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Eban: Hope for Negotiations with Egypt Remains; Imposed Settlements from Abroad Cannot Solve Mideast

January 27, 1972
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Foreign Minister Abba Eban said last night that it was not beyond hope that Egypt will come to the negotiating table after acknowledging that imposed settlements from abroad cannot solve the Middle East conflict. Eban said that Israel agreed to the idea of an interim settlement to reopen the Suez Canal when it was first proposed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on Feb. 9, 1971 as a step to be taken prior to an over all settlement.

Israel’s agreement still stands, Eban said in an address to the 28th World Zionist Congress. He said the hope for negotiations with Egypt remains, “particularly after her President had the wisdom and fortitude to step back from war.” But shortly after Eban spoke last night, President Sadat went on Cairo radio and television to tell the Egyptian people that he had broken off all contacts with the United States aimed at negotiations with Israel, that he was negotiating with the Soviet Union for more arms and would go to Moscow if necessary “to complete these negotiations,” and “we are preparing for a long battle” against Israel.

Some observers here viewed Sadat’s war statements as an obvious response to violent demonstrations in Cairo and Alexandria by students who demanded that the Egyptian government abandon its recourse to diplomatic channels in an attempt to achieve a Middle East settlement, Sadat sought to justify his delay of overt war moves by noting that the US is supplying Israel with more Phantom and Skyhawk jets and that Egypt requires time to strengthen its forces through deliveries of more military equipment from Russia.

Eban told the Zionist Congress, however, that the current unrest in the streets of Cairo pointed to a deep spiritual and intellectual crisis in Egypt with relation to the Middle East crisis. He said the Egyptians’ feelings of frustration stemmed from a false understanding of Zionism as an expansionist movement and a delusion that Egypt could decide the issue by force. Another erroneous belief which has guided Arab policy for four-and-a-half years was that an imported ready-made solution would be imposed on the Middle East from the outside, Eban said.

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