Egypt aims for renewed peace talks
Cairo — Egypt is impatiently seeking the initiation of a new phase in the peace process based on President Reagan's plan and seems to have softened its conditions for resumption of talks.
Egypt has recalled its ambassador to Israel to dramatize its protest of what it regards as direct Israeli involvement in the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Lebanon and the renewal of the fighting there last week. Now, however, Egyptian officials say the beginning of Israel's withdrawal from Beirut and any positive development in preparation for its eventual withdrawal from other parts of Lebanon would meet Egypt's conditions for resuming the talks.
Egypt's eagerness to preserve the momentum started by the announcement of Mr. Reagan's peace plan was described by President Hosni Mubarak in a speech Sept. 22 as a ''lifetime opportunity'' that the Arabs should not miss. Urging them to adopt a realistic attitude and not discard the plan, he said: ''We have to sit at the negotiating table and turn the negative aspects (of the plan) into positive ones.''
In preparation for a new start in the Camp David peace process involving the Palestinians and the Jordanians, as called for in the Reagan plan, Egypt is strengthening its ties with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The prominent role and high hopes US officials have placed on Jordan seem to have prompted Egypt to avoid being pushed to the sidelines.
The prospect of the formation of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation seems to be in the process of being worked out. Although Egypt does not oppose it, Egyptian officials say they will insist on PLO involvement in it and its approval of the final formation of the team.
Egypt can also be expected to stand by the PLO if and when the talks start, since the two see eye to eye on the crucial question of linking the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan. The idea, which Reagan said the United States would prefer to see as a final outcome, is regarded by both as the main negative feature of the plan.
Although they do not rule out that this might be the end result of the peace process, and they admit that strong social and economic ties between the Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza and Jordan are necessary, Egypt and the PLO do not want the link to be imposed on this entity from the outset.
The PLO says this should come at a later stage as a result of a referendum, while Egypt's concern is about the long-term repercussions if opposition to it grows in the future.
Bearing in mind Arab and Muslim sensitivity to the status of Jerusalem, Egyptian officials say the vagueness of the plan's statement on it is another negative aspect. Reagan said the city should remain undivided and its future open to negotiation, while Egypt and other Arab states regard its eastern part as occupied territory from which Israel should withdraw.
But, they say, the plan is a viable basis for future talks, since it has met the longstanding Palestinian call for considering their problem as a national problem - and not a refugee problem as stated in United Nations Resolution 242, which the PLO has so far refused to endorse.
And the plan has also satisfied the Arabs' call for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, and explicitly spelled out US opposition to the annexation of these areas occupied in the 1967 war.