Egyptian President Anwar Sadat expressed strong concern yesterday that peace negotiations with Israel were nearing a stalemate over the Palestinian question and the future of Jewish settlements in occupied Arab territory.
"The peace process is in a crucial moment - or endangered, really - because of this (settlements) issue and the issue of self-determination of the Palestinians," Sadat declared at a press conference in Aswan.
The Egyptian leader's assessment, made following talks with visiting British Prime Minister James Callaghan, was his most pessimistic appraisal of peace prospects since his historic visit to Jerusalem two months ago.
Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman also took a fairly gloomy view of the situation yesterday on his return to Jerusalem following an indefinite recess of the Israeli-Egyptian military talks in Cairo.
"The road ahead is long - very long," Weizman told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport.
Egypt's war minister, Gen. Abdel Ghani Gamassi, later told reporters in Cairo that resumption of the military talks would depend on "how much progress" is made in the political discussions at the foreign minister's level that are scheduled to open in Jerusalem on Monday.
In emphasizing the importance of the Jerusalem talks, Gamassi appeared to reflect Sadat's view that major political decisions are now required if further progress toward peace is to be made.
Earlier, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Sadat attack Israel's insistence on maintaining Jewish settlements in the Sinai. Noting that he had agreed to peaceful co-existence, during his visit to Jerusalem, Sadat charged that Israel seemed to be placing the desire to hold onto Arab land ahead of its desire for peace.
"Don't you see that you have got everything?" Sadat declared in the interview. "And now you are starting to bargain with me about my land . . . We're heading toaward the old problem: Is it peace or land? This is the question that needs an answer from your side."
Jerusalem Post reporter David Landau, who obtained the first interview ever given by Sadat to an Israeli newspaper, said that during their 75-minute conversation, the Egyptian president "spoke in sad, disillusioned, and sometimes ominuous tones of what he deems Israel's failure to respond to his peace initiatives.
"Sometimes, he even referred to this initiative in the past tense," Landau said.
Sadat said, however, that he could accept Israel's plan for limited self-rule on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a transitional measure if Begin would promise that the Palestinians would eventually be guaranteed the right of self-determination.
The Egyptian leader also was careful not to rule out a possible exchange of territory in the Sinai as a last-ditch way of resolving the settlement issue, the Jerusalem Post reported. Nor did he rule out the possibility of patrols on the West Bank - possibly jointly with the Jordanians - after creation of a Palestinian state on that territory.
Sadat also advanced a six-point plan to guarantee Israeli's security along its future border with Egypt in the Sinai. The plan called for:
Demilitarized zones on a reciprocal basis. "I have said that I shall take into consideration the size of Israel and the size of Sinai," Sadat said.
Early warning stations on both sides to be manned by a third party. "I shall never put Egyptians on your territory because I will not agree to have Israelis on my land," he said.
Areas of limited armaments.
U.N. forces along the borders and at Sharm el Sheikh.
A declaration in the peace agreement that the Straits of Tiran are an international waterway.
A joint committee of Israeli and Egyptian military men to meet on a regular and permanent basis in El Arish and Beersheba.
Prime Minister Menahem Begin's office declined to respond to Sadat's remarks yesterday - saying it was much too close to the opening of the political talks in Jerusalem to comment.
But Washington Post correspondent H. D. S. Greenway reported from Jerusalem that Sadat's offer to accept, as a transitory measure, the principle of Palestinian self-rule on the West Bank under continued Israeli occupation was not likely to move the Begin government, because it is conditional on Israel promising eventual self-determination.
Israel would allow the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza a measure of home rule - and the choice of becoming Jordanian or Israeli citizens - but Israel is adamant about never allowing an independent Palestinian state.
As Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan has pointed out, the whole purpose of the self-rule plan is to prevent the West Bank Arab from becoming Palestinians in the sense that they have their own country.