Thant Rejects Any Link Between Mideast Settlement and End of Vietnam War

Secretary General U Thant told a press conference here today that while “the Vietnam war has a definite and direct impact on any crisis anywhere,” he would “not go as far as to say that the solution of the Middle Eastern problem rests, or is predicated upon a settlement of the Vietnam war.”

The Secretary General spoke in reply to a question which cited the Canadian Government’s view, stated during Prime Minister Eshkol’s visit to Ottawa earlier this week, that the Middle Eastern problem could not be solved until the problem of Vietnam is solved. Mr. Thant said he agreed with “the assessment that the Vietnam war poisoned the atmosphere and caused a very serious set-back in the East-West detente.”

The Middle Eastern crisis was raised only occasionally during Mr. Thant’s press conference, his first in four months, which was dominated by the war in Vietnam and related problems. One questioner, however, asked if the Secretary General had “any enlightening pronouncements” to make on Ambassador Gunnar Jarring’s progress “involving the principles listed in the Security Council resolution and including the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all occupied territories.” Mr. Thant noted, in reply that Ambassador Jarring was actively involved in discussions and consultations with the parties concerned and that it would be “harmful” if he injected himself into the picture with “substantive announcements.” Similarly, the Secretary General declined to comment on which side the burden of responsibility for last June’s Arab-Israel war rested.

Asked how he would interpret President Johnson’s alleged failure to mention the United Nations during his State of the Union address last night, Mr. Thant said: “If I remember correctly, President Johnson did mention Ambassador Jarring’s activities in the Middle East…He even endorsed Ambassador Jarring’s mission for peace and for this I am grateful.”

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