Israel Rejects U.S. Compromise on Its Taba Dispute With Egypt

From Reuters

Israeli leaders have rejected a U.S. proposal to solve a border dispute by giving Egypt sovereignty over the Red Sea beachfront at Taba and Israel access to it, Israeli government officials said on Friday.

A panel of international arbiters is due later this year to judge the conflicting claims of Israel and Egypt to the tiny territory. U.S. officials proposed a negotiated compromise rather than an imposed ruling on grounds that it would be less likely to strain relations between the two countries.

Israel has ruled the 250-acre strip of sand at Taba on the Red Sea since it captured the Sinai Desert from Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War. It has returned the rest of the Sinai to Egypt.

During a visit to the region last month, State Department legal adviser Abraham Sofaer made the compromise proposal to both sides.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin discussed the plan and decided to reject it, aides told journalists.

But an aide to Shamir said the prime minister remained open to other compromise suggestions.

"The meaning of this proposal is that sovereignty would be Egyptian and our rights would be minimized. . . . We have to continue this (arbitration) process for the time being. If we get another offer from the Americans we will consider it," the aide said.

Israel and Egypt are pledged to accept the arbiters' ruling on Taba, but because relations between the nations are tense after the recent unrest in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, diplomats say an out-of-court settlement is desirable.

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