Stewart Says Solution of Refugee Problem Would Improve Chances for Peace

British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart said here today that if an agreement could be reached on how to tackle the problem of Arab refugees, the atmosphere in the Middle East would be improved and “the real just and lasting peace so urgently needed” in the area would be brought in sight.

Mr. Stewart, who spoke during the general debate in the UN General Assembly, expressed satisfaction with the Israel Government’s plans to speed up the return to their homes of refugees who fled during the June, 1967 war. Those plans were announced last week by Israel’s Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, in his address to the General Assembly. Mr. Eban also called for convening an international conference on Arab refugees independent of any prior peace settlement to work out a solution among the Middle Eastern states and other nations and international agencies that have been contributing to refugee support.

Mr. Stewart maintained that the elements of a Middle East solution are available in the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 resolution. However, he went on, “with so many complicated matters to be settled, it would be unrealistic to regard the resolution as self-implementing.” It would be equally unrealistic, he said, to be dogmatic about the way the agreement should be hammered out or to preclude any one method of doing so. He said the parties concerned had accepted the resolution and were ready to continue to discuss the means of implementing it with special UN envoy Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring. “It is the responsibility of the countries directly concerned to move immediately from words to action, to lay their proposals before Dr. Jarring, to seek with him to bridge the differences between those proposals, and to widen the area of agreement,” Mr. Stewart said. Mr. Stewart said that Dr. Jarring was in the position of a man asked to solve a puzzle. This was a difficult task in the best circumstances, he said, but even more difficult if he were not given the pieces of the puzzle.

Mr. Stewart told the Assembly that the Middle East situation pointed up the failures of the UN. The organization was unable to prevent war in 1967 and there was now an uneasy cessation of hostilities in that area, he said, adding that there were some hopeful signs that the conciliation task, now under way, would succeed.

Mrs. Indira Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister, in an address to the Assembly, referred briefly and mildly to the Arab-Israel situation in the General Assembly. Without using the term “Middle East crisis” but referring instead to the “West Asian crisis,” Mrs. Gandhi told the Assembly plenary that like the South East Asia situation “the West Asian crisis also needs to be resolved by political means. There is every opportunity for doing so, if it is recognized that the security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states in this part of the world cannot be based on the re-drawing of state frontiers by force or on the basis of permanent hostility,” she said.

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