Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin will visit Washington from March 13 to 16 for talks on Middle East peace negotiations, the White House said yesterday.
Begin's intention to confer with President Carter here was announced soon after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat held talks with Carter at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, earlier this month.
Begin will meet with the president March 14 and 15 "to conduct an extensive review of progress made in the Arab-Israeli negotiations and how to proceed to a comprehensive peace," White House press secretary Jody Powell said.
Powell declined to comment on a decision Sunday by the Israeli Cabinet to continue unchanged its policy of establishing settlements in occupied Arab lands. The Carter administration opposes the settlements as an obstacle to peace and on grounds they violate international law.
"The president and the prime minister may discuss that or any other items that may be a mutual interest," Powell said.
Egypt charged yesterday that Israel's decision to pursue its policy of expanding settlements in occupied Arab lands threatened the shuttle mission of U.S. envoy Alfred Atherton and was an "open challenge" to the American government.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel said in Cairo that "Israel is taking a position contrary to the success of therton's mission. The seriousness of this timing is that it comes at the height of his effort."
Israel's decision, according to an Israeli Cabinet spokesman, meant that existing settlements in Egypt's occupied Sinai Peninsula will be strengthened and civilians will move into three military camps on the West Bank of the Jordan by the end of March.
Despite the Israeli move, Kamel said, "We shall continue to cooperate with Artherton and any other effort seeking to bring peace closer."
Artherton met with Begin in Jerusalem yesterday and said later that Israel presented concrete proposals for a declaration of principles governing a peace accord, which he would present today to Sadat.
Atherton told reporters after a two hour meeting with Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan that neither Israel nor Egypt rejected the proposals of the other side.
He said, however, there was still a gap between the positions of the two sides but refused to say whether progress had been made in the talks.
Syrian leaders have refused to meet with Artherton on his current shuttle, the state-controlled Syrian press said yesterday.
"Artherton has expressed his wish to visit Syria on his current Middle East tour and Syria has excused herself from receiving him," the daily Tishrin said. Other Damascus newspapers carried similar stories.
The action came as Syria prepared to send a military delegation to Moscow to discuss details of increased Soviet military aid, agreed on during President Hafez Assad's visit to the Soviet capital last week.
"Syria has nothing to say (to Atherton)," Tishrin said. "What it has to say is known to the United States and there is nor way it will be retracted or modified."