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Egyptian Group to Visit El Arish to Plan for Opening the Border to Commercial-interchange

September 16, 1980
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir announced yesterday that an Egyptian group will visit El Arish in northern Sinai next week to examine facilities there and to discuss with Israeli officials the immediate opening of that border cross point to the interchange of goods between Israel and Egypt. Until now travelers between Israel and Egypt have passed through El Arish but there has been no overland movement of freight.

Israelis believe such traffic could substantially reduce the costs of the import-export trade between the two countries which is a facet of normalization. Shamir, who briefed the Cabinet on his visit to Cairo last week, shortly before he left for the U.S. to attend the 35th session of the UN General Assembly, said he was also promised by the Egyptians that they would speed up the processing of visa applications by Israelis who want to visit Egypt.

He said his talks with President Anwar Sadat and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Butros Ghali focussed on normalization. His overall impression, Shamir said, was that the Egyptians are anxious to create a favorable atmosphere in their bilateral contacts with Israel.

Aides who accompanied Shamir to Cairo said privately that the visit was “productive on promises” but Israel must wait and see if those promises and general protestations of good will are translated into concrete improvements in relations between Israel and Egypt.

Shamir apparently did not mince words in his conversations with Ghali and enumerated Israel’s complaints that Egypt has been dragging its feet with respect to normalization. In response, the Egyptians, while not directly admitting Israeli charges, offered spirited reassurances that their desire to faster normalization remains strong and reiterated their pledges to remove all obstacles to that goal.

Shamir had complained publicly before he went to Cairo that Egyptian authorities were actively discouraging commercial and other contacts between Egyptians and Israelis. He contended that were it not for that attitude, hundreds of business deals could have been concluded by now.

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