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Important Progress Reported at Latest Round of Autonomy Talks

August 8, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Participants in the fifth round of autonomy talks, which wound up in Haifa this afternoon, reported success in drafting a list of issues to be negotiated in connection with the methods for electing the autonomy authority for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Egypt’s chief delegate, Premier Mustapha Khalil, said “very important progress” had been made at the two-day meeting. He said the “misunderstanding that had arisen during the talks should be seen as “behind our backs.”

Israel’s chief delegate, Interior Minister Yosef Burg, also sought to couch his summation of the session in a positive way, saying that if the “ups” had been more numerous than the “downs,” this must mean that the talks had been successful.

Israeli sources reported that the Egyptians had dropped three controversial demands. These were the right of Arabs in East Jerusalem to vote in the election, the right of Palestinians living abroad to vote and the question of international supervision of the election.

But while Burg termed this development an achievement, it was not at all clear that by acceeding to omit these points from the agreed list of issues, Egypt had actually conceded its substantive position on them. Khalil noted that the agreed list could be interpreted in different ways.


The list specifies the following issues; the election campaign–rules for running it, regions into which the area will be divided for the purposes of the election, electoral procedures, the right to vote, the right to run as candidate, and supervision of the election. These issues will be dealt with in detail in the weeks ahead by the “modalities” working group.

There has been no agreement yet on a list of issues to guide the second working group, whose mandate is the “powers and responsibilities” of the self-governing authority. The full committee is to meet again only after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s visit to Haifa on Sept.5.

The “misunderstanding” that Khalil referred to was his reference yesterday to Egyptian support for efforts to obtain “balanced changes” in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, a statement which immediately drew sharp reactions from Burg and Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir. Both Burg and Khalil were anxious to veer away from this sensitive issue and steer their dialogue back to the relatively less contentious problems of creating the autonomy. “We are not the balabatim for the 242 affair,” Burg told an interviewer after the Haifa session ended.

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