CAIRO, Sept. 3, 1980
U.S. special Middle East envoy Sol Linowitz announced here today that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin have agreed to resume the suspended Palestinian autonomy talks.
He also said that Egypt and Israel had agreed to "consult" regarding the "preparations, timing and venue" for a three-way summit meeting among Sadat, Begin and President Carter. The proposal for such a summit was first made by the Egyptian leader in mid-August following his suspension of the talks.
There was no immediate indication when the stalled Palestinian autonomy negotiations might resume or what precisely the two parties would discuss.
Reflecting Egypt's sensitivities on this issue, Egyptian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Butros Ghali told Egyptian reporters tonight that Sadat's agreement included only "preparatory talks" and "cannot be considered the resumption of negotiations."
Sadat broke off the autonomy talks in early August following the passage of an Israeli law formally annexing all of Jerusalem as its eternal and undivided capital.
Appearing on Israeli television tonight, Begin stressed that he had not altered his position on the key autonomy issues in an attempt to bring the Egyptians back to the negotiations.
Nor, he said, had Israel changed its position on the sensitive issue of Jerusalem. But he sidestepped questions about his plans to move his office to East Jerusalem, saying he would have to bring the proposal before the full Cabinet for approval.
The announced agreement thus left open the fundamental dispute dividing Sadat and Begin over the Israeli action on Jerusalem as well as the continuing Israeli construction of settlements in the West Bank and its treatment of the Palestinian population.
Without clear Israeli guarantees on these subject, Sadat's decision to resume talking appeared to be a significant step back from the tough attitude he had adopted in suspending the negotiations for the second time Aug. 3
Linowitz said the talks are to resume in "a matter of weeks" and that he had conveyed the agreement of Sadat and Begin to Carter in a telephone conversation from Alexandria following a 4-5 minute talk with the Egyptian leader. A short time afterward the U.S. president was announcing it in Washington.
As for the summit, Linowitz said in a briefing for reporters, no date has been set except for a target of "the end of the year."
"I think it is understood on both sides that it will be after the [american presidential] elections," he added.
This timetable suggested that whatever autonomy negotiations are organized in the two months before the elections will center on an attempt to prune away secondary differences, leaving the three leaders to confront the major disputes that have blocked progress in the talks ever since they began 18 months ago.
These are the future of Jerusalem, the nature of Palestinian autonomy as foreseen in the Camp David accords and the rights of Israelis to maintain civilian settlements and military installations within the area destined for self-rule.
Linowitz said he had been unable to offer any guarantees to Sadat despite what aides described as tough talks Monday and yesterday in Jerusalem with Begin and key members of the Israeli government.
"I gave him impressions rather than commitments," Linowitz said.
At the same time, Linowitz clearly indicated that he had pressed Begin on the disruptive results of the recent Israeli moves to create what, in the Egyptian view, are faits accomplis in Jerusalem and the West Bank, robbing the negotiations of their meaning by trying to determine their results.
Similarly, he indicated that he had brought up with Sadat the resentment created in Israel by Recent Cairo newspaper cartoons depicting Begin as Hitler or as a horned serpent. Begin's government recently lodged two official protests over the cartoons, which reflected and, in a way, contributed to an increasingly sour atmosphere between Israel and Egypt.
Sadat last week handed down orders to Cairo newspaper editors to tone down their criticism.
Linowitz refused to reveal what, if any, assurances Begin had offered on his part. One key test, which Linowitz said he discussed with Begin, will be the Israeli prime minister's decision whether to move his office to the eastern sector of Jerusalem captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.
Work is under way to prepare an office for Begin in the eastern sector and the prime minister's aides say he is determined to move. It would make no difference, they say, because Israel annexed the formerly Jordanian part of Jerusalem in 1967 and has made clear from the beginning that it has no intention of relinquishing sovereignty over the area.
At the same time, the move would have great symbolic importance in the Egyptian view, much as the recent Jerusalem law whose passage in the Israeli parliament led Sadat to suspend the autonomy negotiations.
Without saying so explicity, Linowitz indicated that he had won from Begin the admission that, as Sadat contended in recent exchanges of letters with the Israeli leaders, such moves create an atmosphere in which Egypt finds it difficult to continue negotiating.
"Both sides understand that this must be a factor in going forward with the negotiations," he said.
Sadat's agreement to resume talks, despite the obvious determination of his top aides, also marked a victory for Linowitz, who had left Washington amid predictions of failure. For months a fount of optimism despite obvious lack of progress, he had begun the swing with only faint hope of success.
Linowitz was plainly sensitive about suggestions that his current effort was tied to Carter's reelection campaign. He braced noticeably when a reporter asked what had been accomplished that would dismiss such an idea.
"We're dealing with issues of war and peace," he said. "I'm not here on a political mission."
Now that Sadat has agreed to negotiate again, he said, the United States plans to put forward a working paper that, for the first time, would outline a U.S. summation of issues to which Israel and Egypt would be asked to subscribe. This has been goal of Sadat for some months and a fear of the Israelis, who expect the U.S. position to fall more closely on the side of Egypt than their own.
"We have a document, pieces of paper that might serve as a basis of discussion," Linowitz said, without revealing its contents.