President Anwar Sadat yesterday described this week's negotiations with Israel as "neither a success or a failure," but cautioned that the possibility of further meetings will hinge on Israel's coming up with new elements."
Sadat's brief comments to reporters on his return from the Organization of African Unity summit talks in Khartoum, Sudan, were less pessimissic than the tone struck earlier in the day by other Egyptian officials.
The Egyptians said there had been no agreement on any further direct negotiations with the Israelis. This deflated speculation thw two sides had arranged a new round of talks in the Sinai Peninsula.
Cairo Radio quoted Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel as saying that no agreement has been made on holding another meeting with the Israelis side."
Kamel said, according to the official radio, that "We are ready to meet them in the event that Israel submits new ideas on carrying out its responsibility to withdraw and to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people."
Those have been the fundamental points of the Egyptian position since President Anwar Sadat went to Jerusalem last November to launch his attempt at a negotiated settlement. Israel has not accepted either, offering instead to grant the Palestinians limited self-rule and to negotiate withdrawal from some parts of the territories occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Egypt's official Middle East News Agency distributed yesterday a statement attributed to an official spokesman in London saying there was "no point in trying to find any common round" in the widely different peace proposals submitted by Israel and Egypt at the Leeds castle meeting.
The initial reaction to these statements among observers here was that while the Egyptians were undoubtedly dissatisfied with what they heard from the Israelis, Sadat is not going to abandon his quest for a peace agreement altogether.
It is more likely that he will do as he did the last time the direct talks with Israel were broken off in January - turn to the United States for mediation and for pressure on the Israelis and continue his effort to undermine the position of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
The statement from the Middle East News Agency said the outcome of the Leeds Castle talks "demonstrates once again that the attitudes of the Israeli government still constitute a barrier in the path of achieving any progress toward a just and comprehensive Middle East peace settlement."
Therefore, it said, Egypt had not accepted any date or place for another meeting with the Israelis but would continue its contacts with the United States. Both special envoy Alfred Atherton and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance are due to visit the Middle East in the next two or three weeks.
Atherton spent several weeks in a kind of shuttle diplomacy between Egypt and Israel last spring, after the Egyptians pulled out of peace negotiations in Jerusalem. He was unable to bring the two sides to agreement on a declaration of principles that was to have been the basis for further negotiations.
Sadat has said that he does not want to have any more dealings with Begin personally, and that it would be useless to hold further bilateral talks at any level unless Israel offers some new proposals. But he is also personally committed to seeing through an initiative that he began to world wide acclaim. In the view of experienced observers here, he has few options, militarily or politically, other than to appeal to the United States and to Israeli public opinion in a search for something that will keep the initiative alive.
Sadat is scheduled to deliver a major political address Saturday marking the 26th anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, and may give some statement of his intentions at that time.