Egypt and Israel to discuss Taba, normal relations
Egypt and Israel, bowing to United States pressure, have agreed to resume negotiations broken off by Egypt last summer in protest against Israel's invasion of Lebanon.
Negotiators are scheduled to meet Wednesday in an attempt to resolve a conflict over Taba - a mile-long stretch stretch of Red Sea coast to which Israel has denied entry by multinational peace-keeping troops.
Ten days after that meeting, Israeli and Egyptian officials are expected to convene to discuss normalization of relations between their governments.
The meeting over Taba, which is south of the Israeli city of Eilat, will be the first of its kind between Egypt and Israel since last June. Egypt has viewed Israeli military presence in Taba as a violation of previous agreements between the two governments.
Egyptian officials say a renewal of talks on normalization of relations was ''the price we had to pay for the Taba talks.'' But Egypt's foreign ministry stresses that the normalization talks will be restricted to bilateral trade issues.
Egyptian officials deny that the resumption of negotiations with Israel constitutes a change in Egyptian policy. They stress that Egypt's ambassador to Israel, Saad Mortada, will not return to Tel Aviv until a timetable for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon has been established. Mr. Mortada was recalled to Cairo last summer in protest against Israel's invasion of Lebanon.
Privately, however, officials here concede that the US has been pressing for an end to Egypt's boycott of Israel.
''The US wants to create an atmosphere in which various Arab countries such as Lebanon and Egypt are seen to be negotiating with Israel,'' one official said , adding that the US hopes this will help induce King Hussein of Jordan to join in future Middle East peace negotiations.
Some Egyptians also say that Egypt's boycott of Israel has done nothing to induce Israel to soften its attitude toward Lebanon and the Palestinians. These sources say that ''face-to-face talks with the Israelis may prove to be a better way of influencing them.''
Israel has previously rejected Egyptian demands for a resumption of the Taba talks, insisting that the countries renew negotiations on all issues simultaneously.
Egypt hopes to reach agreement during the Taba talks on an interim arrangement that would allow access for the multinational force to the area and to determine who is authorized to enter the region. Egypt also intends to push for procedures to arbitrate a final solution to the problem.
''Normalization of our relations with Israel,'' said one official, ''is much broader than Taba.''
The exact date and venue for talks on renewal of relations have yet to be determined.