Representatives of Israel, Egypt and the United States negotiating the future of the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip wound up two days of talks here tonight apparently agreeing only to continue to talk.
A communique affirmed only that all parties to the Camp David negotiations remained committed to its framework for negotiations and that the negotiators once again had hopes of "an early and successful conclusion" to the talks.
Israeli officials had expressed hopes of persuading Egypt to accept Israel's concept of an administrative council -- with no legislative or security powers -- in the occupied territories to ease opposition in Israel to withdrawal from the Sinai by spring.
The Egyptians continued to insist on a self-governing council that would provide eventual self-determination for the Palestinians.
While the failure to make progress was papered over in the brief communique, it was made apparent by the delegations' refusal to meet the press.
Asked about his frame of mind as he prepared to depart, Interior Minister Yosef Burg, leader of the Israeli delegation, said only: "I could imagine more happiness, and I can imagine more unhappiness."
His counterpart, Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamal Hassan Ali, told reporters that "there were some differences . . . but I'm always pleased when we are meeting and talking."
Israel, aware that Egypt is worried about any obstacles to Israel's planned total withdrawal of troops and settlers from the Sinai Peninsula by April 25, pressed for Egyptian concessions as a means of defusing opposition at home to the withdrawal.
The issue was taken up by Ali and Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir at breakfast this morning. Shamir, along with Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Burg, represented Israel in the talks; Washington's participants included its ambassadors to Cairo and Tel Aviv.
Egypt's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Raoug Ghoneim, denied that autonomy progress and the Sinai withdrawal had been linked. On the council issue, Ghoneim said, "It is useless to reach an agreement that is ipso facto unacceptable to the Palestinians."
Despite the setback, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hailed the Camp David peace plan as "the essence for us and Israel" and said he would visit Israel "probably next year," United Press International reported.