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State Dept. Reports on the Kennedy–ben-gurion Talks on Arab Refugees

The State Department issued a statement today, emphasizing that “the question of an understanding” between President Kennedy and Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, as to a “specific solution” of the Palestine Arab refugee problem, “did not arise” during the talk last week in New York between the two statesmen.

(Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, prior to his departure from New York for London, told reporters that he had reached “a very large measure of agreement” with President Kennedy with regard to the solution of the Arab refugee problem and that President Kennedy had a plan for the solution of this problem. He added that if the Arabs would accept this plan, “there will be a solution.”)

The State Department, in its statement today, referred to a communique issued on May 10 by the United Nations Conciliation Commission, and emphasized that the U. S. Government has consistently supported the UN resolutions which envisage the solution of the Palestine refugee problem through repatriation or compensation. “It will fully support moves made by the Conciliation Commission in accordance with them,” the State Department declared. At the same time, the statement revealed that President Kennedy, in his talks with the Israel Prime Minister, “stressed the importance of Israel’s cooperating with such efforts as may be initiated by the UN Palestine Conciliation Commission.

The State Department’s statement, issued by Lincoln White, its press secretary, reads:

“On May 10, the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine issued a communique reporting that it had met that day to consider steps which could usefully be taken in the fulfillment of its responsibilities pursuant to the General Assembly resolution–the precise number of it is 1604 (XV) – of April 21, 1961, and relevant previous resolutions. These resolutions envisage the solution of the Palestine refugee problem through repatriation or compensation.

“The United States Government has consistently supported these resolutions, and will fully support moves made by the Commission in accordance with them. Now, in their brief informal meeting in New York, President Kennedy raised with Prime Minister Ben-Gurion the subject of the tragic plight of the Arab refugees, and stressed the importance of Israel’s cooperating with such efforts as may be initiated by the United Nations Palestine Conciliation Commission.

“Since the Commission’s endeavors have not as yet taken precise form, and since in any case the responsibility lies with the parties directly concerned as they may be assisted by the United Nations Commission, the question of an understanding between the President and the Prime Minister as to specific solution did not arise.”

(The New York Times reported yesterday from Beirut that President Kennedy sent letters of goodwill to the chiefs of state of the United Arab Republic, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon about ten days before the visit of Premier Ben-Gurion to the United States. Although it did not mention Mr. Ben-Gurion’s visit, the message was meant to reassure the Arab leaders that the meeting between the President and the Israeli Premier did not alter the United States’ relations with the Arab states, the Times report stated.)

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