A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yet Another Anniversary: Kilometer 101

Besides yesterday's anniversaries of El Alamein and the Beirut Marine Barracks bombing, today marks a somewhat different kind of anniversary: one that began a road towards peace: the Kilometer 101 talks.

Thirty-nine years ago today, on October 27, 1973, Egyptian and Israeli generals agreed to meet near the Suez Canal to discuss the stalemate that had developed at the end of the fighting in the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Israel, having crossed to the West Bank of the Suez Canal in its counteroffensive, cut off the Egyptian Third Field Army from its sources of supply just as a ceasefire went into effect. Egypt was left with a major part of its Army cut off without supplies, and with an Israeli Army on the road to Cairo. On October 27, the Egyptians agreed to direct negotiations, military to military, at the front to seek a disengagement. The first meeting actually took place after midnight, and thus on October 28. The two sides met at Kilometer 101 on the Cairo-Suez road, thus only 101 kilometers from the Egyptian capital.
UN Checkpoint at Kilometer 101
Though Egypt was forced into the talks by military necessity, one of its goals in the war had been to force negotiations with Israel in order to regain Sinai for Egypt. Ultimately, the talks at Kilometer 101 evolved into Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy (Kissinger had previously ignored the Middle East due to preoccupation with Vietnam, but now became fully engaged), the first and second Sinai Disengagement Agreements, and ultimately Sadat's visit to Jerusalem four years later, and the subsequent Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

It is also easy to forget that Arabs had refusred to negotiate directly with Israelis after the end of the 1948 War and the Rhodes Armistice; talks when they did occur were "proximity" talks with a third-party mediator, and went nowhere. At Kilometer 101, generals met generals on military disengagement issues, but it also met Egyptians and Israelis were talking directly to each other for the first time in years.
One of the Later Meetinvs at Kilometer 101
The Kilometer 101 talks continued until superseded by the Kissinger shuttles; Israel allowed the resupply of the Third Army; Egypt continued to negotiate directly. Kilometer 101 marked the beginning of an Egyptian-Israeli peace process that ultimately led to a peace treaty.

No comments: