Deputy U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Sterner, winding up two days of talks with Israeli officials over a multinational peacekeeping force for the Sinai peninsula, said today he is confident such a force will be established before Israel completes its Sinai withdrawal in April 1982.
David Kimche, director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, shared Sterner's optimism, saying, "We feel absolutely confident that an agreement will be reached." Their comments appeared to put to rest rising Israeli fears that the United States may fail to find nations willing to contribute troops to a Sinai force, and that Israel might have to delay its final withdrawal from the last third of the peninsula.
There has been no rush of countries to join the force, presumably because nations that import oil from Arab opponents of the Camp David treaty fear the consequences of participating.
Sterner said no nations have been approached. "In an official manner," but that Israel had presented a list of acceptable countries. He declined to disclose them, saying he will discuss it with Egyptian officials in Cairo Saturday. Former president Carter promised Israel in a letter that accompanied the Camp David accords that he would form a multinational peacekeeping force for the Sinai if the United Nations could not. The Soviet Union threatened to veto such a U.N. force, and Israel is holding the United States to a commitment.