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Peres, Mubarak End Talks, Back Drive for Peace

September 13, 1986|DAN FISHER | Times Staff Writer

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — The Egyptian and Israeli leaders concluded their first summit meeting in five years Friday with a joint call to dedicate 1987 to the search for Middle East peace, but they took only modest steps of their own in that direction.

While President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Prime Minister Shimon Peres of Israel said they agreed in principle that an international conference could bring peace to the Middle East and that a committee should be formed to prepare for such a conference, both emphasized that there was not enough time during their 24-hour meeting to make more substantial progress.

Elegant Palace

"The only common enemy we have discovered in the last 24 hours is the shortage of time," Peres said in a statement. Besides their joint communique, Peres and Mubarak both issued brief statements before the closing ceremony at the elegant Ras el Tin summer palace overlooking the Mediterranean.

The only concrete result of the summit appears to be Egypt's decision to normalize its diplomatic relations with Israel by returning an ambassador to Tel Aviv. Esmat Abdel Meguid, the Egyptian foreign minister, announced that Mohammed Bassiouni, who has been in charge of Egypt's diplomatic mission in Israel, will become the new ambassador. Egypt withdrew its ambassador from Israel four years ago to protest the massacre of Palestinian civilians in Beirut by Israeli-supported Christian militiamen.

Both sides apparently wanted to put the best face on the meeting, but their joint statement was only the minimum that Israeli officials had said before the summit they hoped to achieve. At least some of them made no secret of their disappointment.

'Radicals Will Do It'

Avraham Tamir, director general of the prime minister's office, said of what he had seen as an opportunity for substantive progress: "It was like a cow ready to milk, but no one milked her." The danger now, Tamir warned, is that "the radicals will do it."

Mubarak said in his closing statement to the press that the two leaders had agreed on the need to organize a committee to prepare for an international conference on Middle East peace. But the agreement was not mentioned in the joint communique, which merely declared that 1987 will be "a year of negotiations for peace" and called on "all parties concerned" to exert an intensive effort toward that end.

Peres, on returning to Israel, confirmed at an airport press conference that it is still not clear when any conference preparation committee will meet or who will be its members. He said that he and Mubarak had reached "a reasonable degree of understanding" on such matters but no detailed agreement.

David Kimche, director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said that the committee would include representatives of Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians and that it would "examine what the international conference will discuss, who will participate and when."

PLO Opposed

Previously Peres has said that Israel would agree, under certain conditions, to an international conference on peace in the Middle East. But Israel opposes any participation in such a conference by the Palestine Liberation Organization or by such countries as the Soviet Union that do not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.

Israel also has insisted that an international conference "accompany" rather than replace direct negotiations among the confrontational states and that international sponsors have no veto power over agreements reached directly between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Israeli officials confirmed that the talks in Alexandria had established no mechanism for future action.

"At least I thought we would agree on a mechanism for how to proceed with this process," Tamir said. But he was wrong, he added; there are "no working groups, no nothing."

'Nothing Decided'

Muhammed Beltagi, the Egyptian government spokesman, agreed. "Nothing has been decided" about further meetings to prepare for an international conference, he said.

Uri Savir, the spokesman for Peres, said, "I don't think it's even needed," when asked about the absence of any agreed framework on further contacts with Egypt. He said the results of the Alexandria talks were "far above expectations."

Other aides to Peres insisted that there had been more in the way of agreement between the two leaders than was reflected in their joint statement. One member, asking not to be further identified, said, "The problem is that it's much easier to agree on the content than on the way to express it in public."

Nonetheless, even the more upbeat members of the Israeli delegation conceded that hopes of issuing a more detailed final statement were dashed when the two sides failed to agree on key issues.

'Time Was Pressing'

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