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U.N. Body to Seek Extension on Arab Refugee Problem for Another Year

The Palestine Conciliation Commission, which is now saddled with a General Assembly resolution instructing it to deal anew with the Arab refugee problem in the Middle East, is going to seek extension of its mandate for another year, in the hope that it might be able to work out a solution to the refugee question by 1962, it was learned here today.

The significance of such an extension it was noted here, is that, by the time the Assembly meets in 1962, it will face also the need for a definitive move in regard to the status of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. UNRWA is now working under a three-year mandate, which is to expire on June 30, 1963. Thus, UNRWA itself must be renewed, or have its functions altered, or have its operations placed into a new format, by the time the Assembly meets in the fall of 1962.

Dr. Edward E. Johnson, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who was appointed by the PCC last summer as the Commission’s special emissary, with authorization to survey the Arab refugee problem from all aspects, is expected to recommend that the Commission be given another year, during which it would try, once and for all, to solve the refugee problem.

Dr. Johnson’s report to the Commission, based on conferences he has held in the Middle East capitals–including Jerusalem–and on conversations with the Middle East Foreign Ministers here–including Israel’s–is being drafted this week. The Commission will file another report to the Assembly some time between next week and the opening of the Special Political Committee’s debate on the issue, scheduled for late November.

In that report, Dr. Johnson is expected to indicate that there is hope of a definitive solution of the refugee problem. While he cannot report directly to the Assembly, Dr. Johnson will file his report with the Commission which–in turn–may annex his observations to its formal Assembly report. In its interim report to the Assembly last week, the Commission indicated that there are “hopes of progress” on the refugee issue.

Actually, it was learned, neither the Arab leaders nor Israel’s have moved from their previous positions on the refugee issue. The Arabs still insist that the refugees be given the choice between “return to their homeland” and compensation by Israel. Israel, on the other hand, refuses to swallow that formula, insisting that there are alternatives to “repatriation” such as resettlement of the Arab refugees in Arab lands and reintegration of the refugees in the Arab economy, as proposed several years ago by the late Secretary-General Dag Hammarksjold.

However, it is understood that Israel may not object to a plan for compensating the Arab refugees under certain conditions, providing international aid toward such compensation is given by the international community. Both the United States and Britain have been on record since 1955 as willing to aid financially to help meet the costs of compensation to the refugees.

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